IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale fronted the media to talk about allegations with regards to donations to his Forward Ipswich fund.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale fronted the media to talk about allegations with regards to donations to his Forward Ipswich fund. File

QT Year in Review: Racism sparks community outrage

JUNE came with international attention on racism in Ipswich and allegations over donations to Paul Pisasale's Forward Ipswich Fund.

It also held good news for the economy, with more jobs promised in the construction of a new Ipswich hub for delivery business TNT Express and major funding announcements across two levels of government.  

CCC investigation

Allegations over undeclared donations were referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission in the first days of June and led to Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale resigning from two positions with the Local Government Association of Queensland.

Mr Pisasale was accused of not properly disclosing donations made to his campaign fund Forward Ipswich.

"I've got nothing to worry about," Cr Pisasale told the QT.

"I welcome any inquiry to clear the matter up."

The fund has a dual purpose of serving the community and promoting Cr Pisasale's election campaigns.

The CCC, formerly known as the Crime and Misconduct Commission, announced in August that it had finished assessing the matters referred to it and would investigate the allegations relating to Cr Pisasale.  

Health, development and funding

As part of its 2014 budget, the State Government announced it would refurbish and reopen the decommissioned Borallon Prison at a cost of $57.3 million.

The prison will house close to 500 male prisoners once it is reopened in 2016 and will create an estimated 200 jobs.

The city's mental health services received welcome news in the state budget with the announcement that a $10 million 18-bed facility would be built at Gailes.

Funding for the facility was part of an almost $29 million boost to the annual West Moreton Hospital and Health Service's budget.

The facility is due to be open early in the New Year.

State Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced on June 18 it would partner with the new Mater Springfield Private Hospital to boost frontline services in a public-private partnership.

The hospital will have the capability to treat up to 4800 public patients each year through the $26 million, 10-year partnership with the government.

Council-owned corporation Ipswich City Properties unveiled a $150 million plan in mid-June to open the Ipswich Mall onto the Bremer River.

An Australia-wide expression of interest was opened to developers for more than a month, with four developers eventually putting their hands up to vie for the project.

The project is one stage of a much-wider $1 billion plan to transform the city centre.

The council confirmed ratepayers would not have to foot the bill for the development, but residents did face new costs on June 26 when the council released its annual budget.

It included an average rate rise of 4.44%, equal to about $1.30 a week.

"I think it's a very fair budget that concentrates on the future and I'm sure the people of Ipswich will understand where we're going," Cr Pisasale said.  

Racism in Ipswich

The community came together after a racial attack on June 6 on two staff members of Indian Mehfil restaurant in the CBD.

Restaurant owner Raj Sharma said the attack on his staff, where they were beaten, stabbed and racially abused, was the culmination of a series of racist incidents.

A 16-year-old boy and 17-year-old boy were charged and appeared before the Ipswich Magistrates Court.

"The incident is not a bad reflection on Ipswich, but the problem needs to be addressed," Mr Sharma said.

"It is only a small segment of society but the most disturbing part is that they are teenagers."

Only weeks later on June 24, Mr Sharma's two children and staff members were again subjected to racist taunts and threats while at the restaurant.

The attack made international headlines and resulted in a 20-year-old man and 22-year-old man being charged.

"This is common practice," Mr Sharma said.

"It used to happen at night. This happened in broad daylight."

The QT held a Stand Against Racism Rally on July 12 in response to the attacks, where State Minister for Multicultural Affairs Glen Elmes commended people who attended.

"Difference is everywhere in our society and none of us should be threatened by it," he said.

"The enemies of cultural diversity are narrow mindedness, bigotry and racism."

"The acts of a few cast a shadow over the whole Ipswich community."

In the wake of the attacks, Queensland Police also reminded the public of the increased presence of officers across the CBD.

"We've got what is called the Foxtrot team - a non-taskable, totally proactive enforcement team that has been running since January," Inspector Michelle Stenner said.

"They roam around the CBD to target those offences which cause our general members of the public the most concern." 

Royal Commission

Victims of child and sexual abuse at the Riverview Training Farm near Ipswich gave their final submissions in late June to a royal commission into the response to child sexual abuse.

Riverview Training Farm was one of four Salvation Army homes under investigation in a public hearing earlier in 2014.

One witness, known as EY, recounted how he escaped Riverview after being repeatedly bashed and raped by older boys.

He found work at the small town of Tiaro before a local police officer recognised him and returned him to Riverview.

The witness told the commission how he was whipped with a leather razor strip when he returned to the farm.

Despite the bad memories, former residents of the home hold an annual reunion barbecue on the grounds. This year's reunion, organised by the Riverview Old Boys Group, was held in August.

Group coordinator Robert Toreaux told the QT in the lead up to the event that the men had formed a close bond in the shared experience at the school.

"We can all relate to what each other might be going through because we've all lived the life," he said.

The commission is yet to release its findings on Riverview and three other Salvation Army schools.

Other case studies of child sexual abuse across the country remain under investigation.

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