The Victorian Government has dropped plans to build the controversial multi-million dollar youth detention centre in Werribee South after fierce backlash from residents of Wyndham, in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
The high security youth justice centre will now be built in Cherry Creek, which is on the outer fringe area of rural Werribee, on a 60ha site next to a quarry and the tip. There is a minimum of five-to-six km distance from the edge of all current and future residential developments and bigger than the original proposed area at Hoppers Lane in Werribee South.
Speak Out Wyndham’s Voice spokeswoman Lisa Heinrichs said the decision to move the construction of the youth detention from Hoppers Lane was an appropriate and positive move by the government.
“We are very pleased with the new site as our campaign’s focus was always to get the location moved from the proposed site at Werribee South as we had a lot of angry and upset residents, farmers, and a council and community that had no consultation from the government,” she told Dscribe.
“The original site was within metres of residential homes and close to our farming and tourist areas, so our campaign was to form a group of people to volunteer behind-the-scenes for fundraising, planning, sign petitions, form sub-committees and involve the community as a whole”, she said.
Ms Heinrichs further emphasised that the Speak Out spokespeople had meetings with Werribee MP Tim Pallas and Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos to voice their concerns, and they were very pleased when a new location was confirmed.
“This is a sign of a healthy democratic process, this is a sign of a government that does in fact respond to community concerns, this is a win for this local community,” Ms Mikakos said.
The campaign saw more than 7,000 people attend a rally on February 13 in Werribee, thousands of residents signed petitions and twenty tractors rumbled through the main street to protest against the proposed 224-bed high security facility at Werribee South.
“Unfortunately you can’t make everyone happy as there are sections of the community that feel different and don’t want it in Werribee or Wyndham at all, but I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of Wyndham for their hard work,” said Heinrichs.
Point Cook resident Maisa Akroush said the campaign should have been more focused on getting the government to find another location, in another area outside Wyndham.
“The Speak Out group did the best they could given the government acted in a very tyrant and ambiguous way, but I believe there are more suitable sites and for whatever reason, they picked on Wyndham Council to find an alternative site for it,” she said.
The youth detention centre is due to be completed in 2020.