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  • Renee Cluff

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    Plan to reduce 'ramping up' of Cairns itinerants to be put to State Government

    A tightening of free patient travel from Cape York to Cairns will be among a raft of recommendations put to the State Government to deal with an increasing number of homeless people in the city.

    This week, police shut down an itinerant camp behind a school at suburban Earlville.

    Cairns Regional Council’s Acting Mayor Terry James said such camps have become commonplace. 

    “It seems to be ramping up at the moment and we’ve got quite a few itinerants and they just don’t seem to want to go home,” he said.

    “At this particular camp there’s been unlawful behaviour going on all hours of the day and night, including drinking during the day and it just doesn’t auger well in an urban environment close to a school.”

    Cr James said people in the camps tend to be from indigenous communities on Cape York who travel to Cairns to be treated for health issues but end up sleeping rough.

    “The issue is getting these people to want to go home, they don’t want to necessarily go home and I don’t think they can be forced so they’re setting themselves up in these camps,” he said.

    “Police are doing their best to round them up and get them on the right track to get them back up north and then of course the Council is left with the clean-up.”

    State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington, who is in town for an Advance Cairns function tonight, was critical of the Government’s response.

    “When you’ve got upwards of 20 agencies trying to solve a problem without a co-ordinated approach we’re not going to end up with a solution,” she told the ABC.

    “We need to ensure everyone working in this space is working towards the same goal.”

    However, Cairns MP Michael Healy told Tropic Now there is a co-ordinated approach, which he is leading.

    “It’s called the Reducing Public Intoxication and Anti-Social Behaviour in Cairns, which I’ve been co-ordinating since February this year,” he said.

    “It includes government and non-government agencies such as the Office of Liquor and Gaming, Anglicare, Queensland Health and the Cairns Regional Council plus many more.”

    In January, Mr Healy promised a list of recommendations to deal with the issue by the end of February.

    He told Tropic Now the document is now expected to be presented to the State Government in August.

    “It takes time to articulate a document and identify what’s needed,” he said.

    “Part of that list will be an expansion of our diversionary centre and a tightening up of the travel requirements of indigenous people travelling here for health reasons and not returning home.”

    “In the meantime, I’ve already been asking for funding for an expansion of the diversionary centre outside of the budget.”

    Mr Healy said he is hoping to make an announcement soon about the diversionary centre, an Anglicare-run initiative providing a safe place for inebriated people to sleep off their intoxication.