Independent and FREE - 2021 Best Online Publication

Youth remand centre axed after community backlash

Independent and FREE – 2021 Best Online Publication (Qld Country Press)

Youth remand centre axed after community backlash


'We have listened': Minister halts youth remand centre proposal after community consultation

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The State Government has abandoned plans to repurpose the Caloundra watchhouse into a youth remand centre after a sustained community backlash.

Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard announced the proposal would “no longer proceed after extensive community consultation”.

Opponents believed what they described as a “youth jail” should not be located so close to a tourist town’s CBD.

Sunshine Coast Council also expressed its opposition to the location of the facility and Member for Kawana Jarrod Bleijie tabled a petition with more than 6000 signatures in State Parliament, supported by Member for Ninderry Dan Purdie, a former homicide and child protection detective.

Ms Linard said that last year, the government announced that Caloundra residents and businesses would have their say on the plans to repurpose the existing watchhouse at 3 Gregson Place to a short-term remand centre for young people.

“As a government, we assured the community that we would listen to their views and we meant it,” she said.

Scroll down to see how people power halted the plan

“The department and the Member for Caloundra Jason Hunt were part of an extensive community consultation process.

“That process found that Caloundra wasn’t the right place for this temporary centre – we welcome the feedback, we listened to the community’s concerns and we have acted on those concerns.”

Ms Linard thanked Mr Hunt for being a passionate advocate for Caloundra and the residents in his community.

Member for Caloundra Jason Hunt.

She said the watchhouse would continue to be used by police as an operational watchhouse and the government would continue to progress the business case announced last year for additional youth detention capacity in Queensland.

Ninderry MP Dan Purdie, an ex-police officer, welcomed the decision, saying he believed it had been a harebrained idea.

He said local police, businesses and community members had known from the start it would not work.

“This has been deceitful and could prove very costly.

“It could take a year to reinstate the watchhouse and cost millions as some contracts were awarded and work commenced before the consultation process was completed.”

Federal Member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace, also welcomed the Queensland Government’s decision to abandon what he labelled an “inappropriate plan to build a youth remand centre close to the Caloundra CBD”.

“However, it is extremely unfortunate that our community was required to mount such a vigorous last-minute campaign against the project to secure its cancellation,” Mr Wallace said.

“I have frequently and publicly expressed my opposition to this unthinkable proposal since July 2021, and made a strongly argued submission against it during the eventual public consultation period in November last year.”

How people power halted a controversial plan

Sunshine Coast News first reported the community’s concerns on July 12, 2021, when groups gathered to protest the proposal.

On September 17, 2021, SCN also covered Member for Caloundra Jason Hunt’s letterbox campaign urging residents to “forget the spin” as he defended the plan.

On October 14, Councillor Terry Landsberg and Caloundra Chamber of Commerce president Michael Shadforth outlined their concerns, including fears the youth remand centre would “tarnish” Caloundra’s reputation, impacting local business and tourism.

Councillor Terry Landsberg.

On November 16, SCN spoke to a youth justice expert who revealed the facility had a glaring shortcoming that could have major ramifications.

A few days later, Member for Kawana Jarrod Bleijie tabled a petition in State Parliament, containing the signatures of more than 6000 locals opposed to the proposal.

A November 30 SCN report revealed the Youth Justice Department had begun awarding tenders and commenced work on the site.

The turning point came just before Christmas when Mr Hunt took a bold stand for the community against his government’s plan to establish the centre in the heart of Caloundra.

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