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

QLD’s $10-Million Plan to Transform Pinkenba Quarantine Facility Into Emergency Housing Accommodation

It would take $10 million to do it but the Pinkenba quarantine facility will be transformed into emergency accommodations for people in dire need of housing.

The State government’s landmark decision about the fate of the Pinkenba quarantine facility comes after numerous debates and discussions surrounding the site’s purpose, with previous assertions that its management fell under federal jurisdiction.

However, the pressing housing crisis in Queensland has necessitated action, and the facility will now be repurposed for much-needed housing.

Housing Minister Meaghan Scanlon unveiled the funding commitment following a housing roundtable, marking a significant turning point in the government’s stance. Partnering with one of Australia’s leading charities, the Salvation Army, the state is determined to ensure the smooth day-to-day operation of the facility. 

The charity’s state homelessness manager, Aaron Pimlott, expressed their readiness to provide professional case management and collaborate with all levels of government to address the escalating issue of homelessness and extreme poverty in the region.

Whilst acknowledging that Pinkenba may not be a perfect solution, Pimlott emphasised the importance of expediting the process to provide vulnerable Queenslanders with a safe roof over their heads. He highlighted the worsening housing crisis and the need to explore alternative solutions in times of desperation.

This initiative builds upon the vision proposed by Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner, who suggested converting the facility into crisis accommodation for domestic violence victims last year. He has also pledged an additional $1 million to enhance the facility to serve a wider range of emergency housing needs.  

Cr Schrinner reiterated the urgent need for the state government to take the lead in activating Pinkenba as crisis accommodation, stressing that many individuals are currently compelled to sleep in cars and tents despite the availability of a brand-new 500-bed facility.

In addition to allocating funds towards the conversion of the Pinkenba quarantine facility, the state will engage with stakeholders, including the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, Queensland Council of Social Service, Tenants Queensland, and the Residential Tenancies Authority, to shape comprehensive rental reforms that safeguard tenants’ rights.

The government’s decision to convert the Pinkenba quarantine facility aligns with its commitment to address the pressing issue of homelessness. It also recently announced that it will allocate $320 million for 500 social homes to address the housing shortage.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expressed the need to ensure all Queenslanders have housing, considering the influx of people moving to the state. The social housing is expected to be completed by mid-2025.

Published 14-June-2023

Authorities Investigate Suspected Clandestine Laboratory in Pinkenba

An alleged clandestine laboratory was discovered in Pinkenba in March 2023 during a major drug trafficking operation, also known as the “Operation Victor Carpenter.”

Read: Authorities Give Tips To Prevent Break-ins Following Cases In Nundah, Other North Brisbane Suburbs

The discovery of the clandestine laboratory was made following the execution of a search warrant at a property on Lavarack Avenue. Detectives managed to seize a range of illegal substances and equipment, including a commercial pill press and laboratory apparatus believed to be associated with the production of methamphetamine, cocaine, and ketamine. 

Photo credit: Queensland Police/YouTube

In addition to these findings, authorities also uncovered a trove of other incriminating items, including an estimated $583,000 in cash, an assortment of glassware, cooking implements, containers, electrical equipment, and various chemicals. Furthermore, the search revealed a cash counting machine, a handgun, and a silencer.

A 38-year-old Albion resident was apprehended at Brisbane International Airport in connection with the case. The individual, whose identity has not been disclosed, is now facing a total of 12 charges related to drug trafficking. He is scheduled to appear before the Brisbane Magistrates Court in June 2023, where the charges will be formally presented.

Detective Inspector John Mison, who oversaw Operation Victor Carpenter, issued a stern warning to those involved in the drug trade, emphasising that law enforcement agencies would maintain an unwavering focus on combating dangerous narcotics in the community. 

Speaking about the operation’s success, Detective Inspector Mison expressed his appreciation for the relentless dedication exhibited by all individuals involved in this extensive operation.

Read: Police Taps Nundah Community CCTV Systems to Help Solve Crime

“Our officers work tirelessly to detect, disrupt, and dismantle these types of illegal drug activities, and I commend the diligent efforts of all involved in this substantial Operation,” stated Detective Inspector Mison.

Published 9-June-2023

Brisbane Willing to Commit $1 Million For Crisis Housing at Pinkenba Quarantine Facility

Brisbane is willing to commit $1 million to help fund a plan to convert the 500-bed Pinkenba quarantine facility into crisis accommodations for the homeless.

A petition for the emergency accommodation has been made at the city level and conversations on the cost-effective use of the facility are expected to move forward in the middle of May 2023. 

As the housing crisis escalates, a push to open the 500-bed Pinkenba quarantine facility has been laid out, with discussions expected to start at the national, state, and city levels.

Brisbane has announced its willingness to commit $1 million to this plan to help fund further work that has to be done to change the Pinkenba quarantine facility into a crisis accommodation for the homeless. 

“We’re all tired of hearing the excuses about why this can’t happen so I’m putting $1 million on the table as a down payment to help make this happen,” Cr Adrian Schrinner said.

“I know this facility wasn’t purpose-built for crisis housing but it’s a whole lot better than living in a car or a tent – and that’s exactly what’s occurring right across Brisbane right now while this 500-bed facility sits idle.”

Pinkenba Quarantine Facility
Photo Credit: LordMayorAdrianSchrinner/Facebook

Meanwhile, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said that the Federal Government, which owns the Pinkenba quarantine facility, is ready to work with their State and Council counterparts. However, they have yet to see a formal approach to this plan. 

Karyn Walsh, the CEO of Micah Projects, a charity for the homeless, said that moving people into the facility has to be clearly outlined given the diversity of the population. The solution should also work out a more permanent outcome that would put an end to the struggles of the homeless or rough sleepers. 

It comes as more than 50 people living in tents at Musgrave Park in the inner city have been moved to temporary accommodation in time for the biggest cultural event in Brisbane, the Panyiri Festival, on 20 and 21 May 2023. Fences in some sections of the park are expected to go up on 15 May 2023. 

Published 15-May-2023

Unfinished Pinkenba Quarantine Facility Proposed for Transformation as Housing for DV Victims

A proposal has been raised to transform the unfinished Pinkenba quarantine facility into a dedicated crisis housing complex for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

In July 2022, the Queensland government announced that the Pinkenba quarantine facility will no longer be required for COVID-19 amidst its delayed opening. The pandemic Wellcamp facility, which opened in February and housed over 700 individuals in the course of six months, has also been ordered closed as of 1 Aug 2022.  

Given these changes, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said that there is now an “opportunity to step-up and ensure their Pinkenba quarantine facility becomes a valuable asset rather than a white elephant.” 

The Federal Government owns the site, which was originally set to open in 2021 with an initial 500 beds and was also due for a handover to the State Government in March. Delays due to inclement weather pushed back its opening but the completion date of the facility has not yet been announced. 

Mr Schrinner said that a number of organisations that have the expertise in crisis housing may run the site on behalf of the government. However, Micah Projects chief executive Karyn Walsh said that the Pinkenba quarantine facility won’t be a quick fix. 

Pinkenba Quarantine Facility
Wellcamp Quarantine Facility
Photo Credit: QueenslandGovt

Whilst Ms Walsh backs the mayor’s idea, she said housing accommodation for domestic violence victims should be planned by the right people. She said DV victims will need to have the “security of housing” where the location is near support services as opposed to a quarantine facility in a well-known site. 

The quarantine facility was also mainly built for infection control and prevention, supporting the health systems and humanitarian efforts of the government. 

A spokesperson for the Federal Government’s Finance Minister and Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said that the $400 million site may instead have future uses for health and emergency situations or as a temporary crisis accommodation following a natural disaster and similar events. 

Quarantine facilities in Victoria and Perth have had similar problems and are now vacant or have yet to open.

New Brisbane International Cruise Terminal in Pinkenba To Welcome First Vessels After 2-Year Pause

The new Brisbane International Cruise Terminal in Pinkenba is preparing to welcome the first cruise passengers to use the facilities, as cruising activities restart after a two-year pause.

The Pinkenba facility was raring to establish Queensland as the country’s cruise ship capital when the $180-million development of the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal finished in early 2020. However, due to border closures, not a single cruise ship docked at the state-of-the-art facility. 

But as the Federal Government announced, the ban on cruises will be lifted by 17 April 2022, consistent with the reopening of Australia’s international borders. Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd, the operators of the Pinkenba site, also confirmed that the terminal will open on 2 June 2022.  

Port of Brisbane CEO Neil Stephens said that they are finalising the health protocols before the terminal is expected to welcome P&O’s Pacific Explorer as the first cruise ship to arrive in Queensland. 

Mr Stephens welcomes the restart as it’s a much-needed boost for the state’s tourism industry. It will also provide more jobs for Queenslanders. 

Dan Tehan, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, on the other hand, said that this was an important milestone in Australia’s response to COVID-19.

“This is great news for the cruise industry, tourism, the broader economy and the Australians who love to take a cruise holiday,” Mr Tehan said.

“The resumption of cruising is another key step forward in the tourism sector’s recovery from COVID-19.

“We look forward to welcoming cruise ships and passengers back to Australian waters.”

For details about the cruise terminal, visit its official FAQs page.

Questions Remain Over Pinkenba Quarantine Hub as Queensland Wellcamp Facility Welcomes First Arrivals

As Queensland welcomed the first unvaccinated occupants at the Wellcamp facility in Toowoomba, some questions remain about the status of the Pinkenba quarantine hub that was supposed to be built for the same purpose.

In August 2021, the Federal Government signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a section of Damascus Barracks in Pinkenba as a purpose-built quarantine facility for travellers arriving in Brisbane. The site was chosen due to its proximity to the Brisbane International Airport and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, removing the pressure off the hands of quarantine hotels around the city so they could resume normal operations. 

But the Wellcamp facility, also known as the Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre, was also built by the State Government earlier than the Pinkenba site and has officially opened in the first week of February 2022. During the press conference to confirm the arrival of its first occupants, Deputy Premier Steven Miles did not have any concrete updates on the Pinkenba quarantine facility.

This site has a one-year lease with an option with its private landlords that could be extended to three years. Currently, some 500 beds have been prepared for the occupants, which are a mix of tourists, workers and students, but another 500 beds are expected to be ready by April. 

The projections for the number of beds were based on the number of individuals quarantined at hotels, both vaccinated or unvaccinated. However, as of February 2022, Queensland has lifted the quarantine requirements for vaccinated arrivals, which means there would be fewer beds needed at Wellcamp. 

The Pinkenba site, on the other hand, is projected to start construction in mid-2022 and thus not yet ready to take in arrivals to Brisbane. 

Since the Pinkenba site’s land is owned by the government, it may remain as a quarantine hub or a disaster management facility for future use. Federal sources also said it may also be repurposed as a temporary housing village for the refugees. 

“Whilst it will be used for any ongoing quarantine requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will also be there in the years to come to support responses to natural disasters or other crises,” Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said. 

“Unlike state proposals, the Pinkenba site is appropriately close to Brisbane International Airport and all necessary medical facilities, including three major hospitals.

“Multiplex is making strong progress in its work to deliver a similar purpose-built quarantine facility in Victoria, and I am pleased that we will be able to draw on their experience and expertise to deliver this centre in Queensland.”

Plans to be Drafted for Pinkenba COVID-19 Quarantine Facility

A COVID-19 quarantine facility for travellers coming to Queensland has been earmarked for Pinkenba with infrastructure consultancy group AECOM assigned to draft and develop the plans to accommodate at least 1,450 people.

The project’s construction will be funded by the Commonwealth but managed from day to day by the State Government. Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said that the Pinkenba site was chosen because of its proximity to Brisbane’s international airport and at least four major hospitals. 

The proposed site, the Damascus Barracks, which spans 35 hectares, is owned by the Commonwealth and has been used as a storage for the Department of Defence. The Federal Government hopes to begin construction by the end of 2021, alongside a similar proposal for Victoria’s quarantine facility.

A feasibility study for the Pinkenba facility has started to help both Commonwealth and State determine the size of the operation.

Photo Credit: Ozatwar/Australian Government

However, the Queensland Government is also pushing to build a Wellness Camp in Toowoomba, which could be built in two months, ahead of the Pinkenba site. Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed hesitation for the Toowoomba facility as it does not meet the criteria for quarantine sites, which should be built on Commonwealth-owned land.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that if both sites will be up and running, there will be no more need for hotel quarantines, the current system in place for travellers going into Queensland. 

As of 14 July, Queensland has five new cases acquired overseas and detected in hotel quarantine. The national cabinet has also cut down the cap for international arrivals to Australia to 3,000, which has the support of Ms Palaszczuk. The cap could remain in place for the rest of the year.