The news that the Federal Government will shut down the Inverbrackie detention facility at the end of the year is no surprise.
The closure was flagged by Tony Abbott’s Coalition even before the election began in earnest.
Whether the closure is the best option for Australia’s asylum seekers is a separate issue.
For the Hills the question remains – what will happen to the 80 former army houses, the ancillary buildings and the small community centre?
There’s no doubt a ridiculous amount of money has been spent fixing up and running the facility.
More than $11m was spent in capital costs establishing the centre which included extensive renovations to many of the homes which had been left empty by defence housing for some time.
Local Federal MP Jamie Briggs estimated nearly $100m has been spent on running Inverbrackie since the gates first opened in late 2010.
It would be an injustice on top of injustice if that money was wasted and the place left to decay once again.
Leaving them empty would also not be in keeping with the current Government’s austerity mode.
The houses are basic and not up to current accommodation standards for Australian Defence Force personnel.
They were built in the early 1980s and also fall short of public housing and aged housing standards.
However, they would make great low cost housing.
When Inverbrackie was set up the community witnessed first hand how quickly a Government can make something happen if it really wants to.
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard made an announcement in October 2010 and the place opened in late December.
It is unlikely that a decision on the future of the Inverbrackie estate will be made with as much haste.
Perhaps the best option to avoid all the bureaucratic hurdles of setting up another public facility would be to sell the houses off as low cost housing – as soon as possible.
That way the place won’t stay empty for long and the local traders, the schools, the sporting clubs and the Adelaide Hills Council can enjoy the benefits of another 80 families living in the area.
An improved local public transport system would almost certainly need to be developed but that is a minor hurdle.
The community may find selling the houses will have a far more positive impact on the economy and dynamics of the district than the detention facility ever did.
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