Hostile neighbours turn on detox hostel

THE fate of a residential rehabilitation centre for indigenous offenders is in the balance after people who live close by launched an impassioned attack to block its expansion.

For more than two decades Milbi has treated people with alcohol and substance abuse problems on a three-hectare farmstead at Etna Creek, about 30 kilometres north of Rockhampton.

Milbi's owners now want to expand the centre's services.

But their application to Rockhampton Regional Council for planning permission has unleashed an outpouring of anger from people who live in the isolated rural community on Lindleys Road.

Yesterday 20 protesters filled the public gallery at Rockhampton Town Hall where two of them, Jeff Lever and Trevor Rufus, told councillors that people lived in constant fear.

Mr Lever said approval of Milbi's plans would lead to more invasion of property, harassment of residents and threats to their health and safety.

“Milbi is a place where alcohol and substance abusers are sent. They are a danger to themselves and to others and there is little supervision or professional care,” he said.

Mr Rufus said Milbi residents had a history of entering properties, using foul and threatening language and harassing people for lifts.

Last year a Milbi resident had turned up on his doorstep demanding his wife call for an ambulance.

“He threatened to kill himself on the doorstep if she didn't do it,” he said.

And he claimed that back in 1994 another Milbi resident, a convicted rapist, had entered the home of a neighbour naked.

“Supervision is almost non-existent,” he claimed.

He told councillors that planning officers who were recommending approval of the expansion had produced a report that was superficial and unbalanced.

“The whole concept beggars belief and approving it will intensify the problems faced by those of us who live close by,” he said.

Councillors visited the hostel on Monday and heard arguments for the application for a change of use to an institutional residence.

Milbi Incorporated proposes to expand by building five twin-share rooms, an administration centre and common room. It also wants to extend the current buildings which provide accommodation for 19 indigenous patients so the centre will have space for 29 in total.

Outside the council chambers Milbi social worker Julie Hill said there had been a lot of misinformation presented as fact by the protesters.

“The proposal is for a government-funded and administered rehabilitation program,” she said.

“Violent offenders are not allowed and only people deemed suitable by the courts are sent to Milbi.”

She said thousands of patients had used the centre over 26 years and there had been only a handful of incidents. And she said people who ran the centre would be happy to hold regular consultation meetings with local residents to discuss any concerns.

“There is a real need for rehabilitation services for indigenous people throughout Central Queensland. We accept management was ineffective in the past, but the current regime is experienced and qualified,” she said, countering the claims made by residents to the councillors.

The Strategic Planning Committee voted to refer the application to the full council next Tuesday.

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