Pinkenba Quarantine Facility Repurposed as AFP Training Hub

The Pinkenba quarantine facility is set to be converted into an Australian Federal Police (AFP) training centre, sidelining a $10 million state commitment to transforming the site into crisis accommodation.

Initially established for Covid quarantine measures, the facility will now serve as a dedicated training hub for the AFP, as confirmed by Australian Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. 

Senator Gallagher underscored the strategic decision to enhance AFP capabilities by adapting the Pinkenba site, formally named the Centre of National Resilience Brisbane. She noted that the decision followed thorough discussions with multiple government levels, ensuring the site’s optimal use aligns with national interests.

Despite previously announced plans by Housing Minister Meaghan Scanlon to convert it into a 500-bed emergency housing unit, the federal directive aligns with the AFP’s operational expansion needs. This move has sparked considerable backlash from local and state officials who argue that the facility could better serve the acute housing shortage affecting thousands across Queensland.

Mix Reactions from Officials, Advocates and Community

Premier Steven Miles expressed frustration over the decision, highlighting the federal ownership of the site as a determining factor in its utilisation, and criticised its initial use as a quarantine centre. 

Meanwhile, Housing Minister Scanlon, who had heralded the state’s financial commitment last June, voiced disappointment over the federal pivot, which effectively dismisses efforts to address the housing crisis at a time when the state faces significant accommodation shortages.

The reaction from community leaders and housing advocacy groups has been sharply critical. Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Queensland Opposition Leader David Crisafulli described the decision as a missed opportunity to mitigate homelessness. Advocacy groups like Q Shelter and the Queensland Council of Social Service, along with the Salvation Army, have all lamented the federal government’s prioritisation of police training over urgent housing needs, criticizing the lengthy deliberation period that led to this outcome.

Housing advocates have consistently pointed out that the facility, whilst not ideal for long-term living due to its layout and lack of essential amenities like kitchens and laundries, could still have provided temporary relief for the homeless, especially during extreme weather conditions or other crises.

Pinkenba Quarantine Facility
Photo Credit: AdrianSchrinner/Facebook

Karyn Walsh, CEO of Micah Projects, a social advocacy group, argued that while the facility was not a perfect solution, the urgent need for housing should have overridden concerns about its suitability for long-term residence. 

Financial Implications and Resource Allocation

The decision to repurpose the facility involves significant financial outlays, with the federal government committing additional funds to modify the site for AFP training. 

This has led to criticism about the allocation of resources, particularly in light of the existing commitments from state and local governments intended for housing relief. Critics argue that this reflects a misalignment of priorities at a time when public funds could be directed towards more pressing social needs.

Published 29-April-2024