Western Australia Government Takes Over Homeless Camp

Western Australia Government Takes Over Homeless Camp
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan during a press conference in Perth, Australia, on Jan. 8, 2021. (Matt Jelonek/Getty Images)

The West Australian (WA) government has formally taken over control of a troubled homeless camp in Fremantle, from the local council while ramping up the blame game.

Treasurer and Lands Minister Ben Wyatt has signed a revocation order under the Lands Administration Act removing the City of Fremantle as the management body for Pioneer Park.

Responsibility for the park has been granted to Heritage Minister David Templeman as the government moves to shut down the camp.

About half of its 100 occupants are understood to have left after being offered temporary hotel stays.

The move has been panned by advocates who say the Labor government has failed to address the crisis in any substantive way.

In a statement on Saturday, the government accused the Fremantle council of failing to withdraw its consent for the occupancy of Pioneer Park in a reasonable timeframe.

The council—whose mayor Brad Pettitt is running for the Greens at the March election—has maintained that it has never authorised people to camp in the park, a position it affirmed days ago in a formal motion.

The McGowan government said it had acted in the interest of vulnerable people who were being “taken advantage of by the activists and organisers of the camp.”

“As a result, WA Police together with the Department of Communities and service providers will work together to close the camp and clear Pioneer Park in a safe manner as soon as possible,” the statement said.

The move to clear the camp comes after police linked it to a number of serious crimes, including assaults and child sexual abuse offences.

Premier Mark McGowan on Friday renewed his criticism of “anarchists” who he accuses of establishing the camp opposite the office of Communities Minister Simone McGurk as a political stunt ahead of the election.

“They’ve been pulling people out of supported accommodation with false promises and putting them in this campsite,” he told reporters. “It’s a rotten exploitation of vulnerable and needy people that the organisers have engaged in here.”

WA’s Department of Communities confirmed it had offered rough sleepers emergency accommodation in response to “serious and growing public safety issues.”

House the Homeless WA spokesman Jesse Noakes said there had been a systemic failure by the McGowan government to address the state’s housing crisis.

“One week’s accommodation is not a solution to homelessness. It is a road to nowhere,” he said.

Noakes said 40 vulnerable people had died on the streets of Perth last year.

About 15,000 people are on the public housing waitlist and more than 1000 are living on the streets, according to Shelter WA.

By Michael Ramsey