Detention centre plan in disarray as liaison officers quit
A KEY plank in a strategy by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to win the hearts of Adelaide Hills residents for a detention centre has failed, with two community liaison officers resigning after just three months.
Natalie Fuller and Susan Smalldon, who shared the position of community liaison officer for the Inverbrackie detention facility, quit this week after their frustration with the Immigration Department boiled over.
The federally funded position was announced last November by Mr Bowen to appease residents in the Adelaide Hills who were angry about a lack of consultation on the opening of a detention facility for asylum-seekers on a mothballed defence housing estate.
Adelaide Hills Mayor Bill Spragg and the member for Mayo, Liberal MP Jamie Briggs, yesterday said the officers struggled to obtain any useful information from Immigration, making it impossible for them to perform their duties.
“The two officers had expressed concern early on, anguish as the problems continued and in the end just utter frustration,” Mr Briggs said.
“The attempts they made to contact Immigration to get legitimate information for the community were shut down.”
It is understood the council, after being made aware of the problems earlier this year, offered to intervene but the officers declined help. Mr Spragg said the timing of the resignations was a concern, just three months into the 12-month contract.
He said council had moved a resolution on Tuesday night to request Mr Bowen to suspend funding for the liaison position, pending the outcome of the Inverbrackie Good Neighbour Council initiative.
A spokesman for Mr Bowen said the government was committed to “thorough and ongoing consultation with the Adelaide Hills community”. A department spokesman said the resignations were unfortunate.