FAILED ATTEMPT: Stephen Schwarten attempted to calm the audience's fears.
FAILED ATTEMPT: Stephen Schwarten attempted to calm the audience's fears. Meg Bolton

Cr Schwarten flees rehab forum in disgust of 'fearmongering'

"You are not at risk.”

This is the message Rockhampton Regional councillor Stephen Schwarten intended to share with a hostile crowd at the Rockhampton rehabilitation centre forum but it was overshadowed by hecklers.

"I would like to speak from a lived experience,” Cr Schwarten told the vocal audience amid jeers.

"Let me dampen your fears.

"I have lived experience twice of being an inpatient in the Damascus Health Services.”

He addressed the crowds at the CQUniversity lecture-theatre venue, which was filled with residents from Edenbrook and Riverside estates, but it wasn't long until he was spoken over.

He was talking about his liver damage from an alcohol dependency when his sentence was cut short by an audience member who wanted to hear from a resident.

"We've had enough of listening to you guys. We need you let us speak,” the woman yelled.

Cr Schwarten unsuccessfully attempted to retake control of the conversation, stressing patients of the facility would not just be ice addicts - he told residents there was no need to fear.

But residents did not take his sentiments lightly, Edenbrook resident Noeleen Horan yelled from the crowds "you can't tell me how I feel”.

The exchange was ripe between Cr Schwarten and the crowd before he left the meeting with a parting statement.

"If you're happy to be frightened be frightened,” he said.

The audience reception was hard for him to swallow. Moments after leaving the theatre to cheers from the crowd, he told The Morning Bulletin he had exited the forum in disgust.

He said "the vile and pig ignorant fearmongering that has resulted in the residents of Riverside and Old Glenmore living in state of abject fear” was deeply concerning.

"Those who have whipped up this have clearly acted in a manner contrary to the interests of residents,” he said.

"The commercially printed protest signs point to real money being behind this mischief making.

"I attended with the intention of speaking from a position of truth, aiming to speak with lived-experience to placate those frighted about ice addicts making mayhem in their community.”

He stressed the patients at the 42-bed facility would be of no danger to residents.

"The fear of the mob in attendance had nobody interested in anything I was trying to say, in all truth, to allay the fear,” he said.

"I condemn the force of ignorance who have wrongfully whipped up fear and wrongfully acted contrary to the interest of residents.”

Cr Schwarten will retire from the council at the next local government election.



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