Simple child’s backpack a window into hell

 

IT'S a putrid, squalid scene.

A shocked tradie walks from room to room in a notorious Southport squat, recording its rancid, filthy interior before the building is knocked down.

The tradie feels compelled to share his disbelief at the grotesque conditions he and his colleague encounter.

"This is pretty disgusting, it's rank," he says. "It's bad man, very bad."

The camera pans from room to room.

There is rubbish, endless rubbish. Bicycles, empty beer cartons, pizza boxes, even a shopping trolley.

Walls are littered with graffiti and punctured with large holes.

A Dora the Explorer bag among piles of junk in a Southport squat house where thousands of needles were found.
A Dora the Explorer bag among piles of junk in a Southport squat house where thousands of needles were found.

And then, amid a pile of debris, a Dora The Explorer backpack - evidence that this building was home not just to junkies, but children too.

It is a jarring sight, a symbol of pure innocence amid a pile of filth.

A slice of childhood whimsy in a house where water and power had long been cut off. And where the shocked tradies reported finding thousands of used needles.

Many people passed through this flophouse of horrors.

We cannot know who this backpack belonged to, or how long the child might have stayed.

But there are some cold, hard facts that provide no comfort.

According to statistics provided to this column by the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, 80 per cent of children taken into care in the Gold Coast region last year came from homes where parental drug abuse was known to be a problem.

Used needles found inside the now-demolished squat house on Queen Street in Southport.
Used needles found inside the now-demolished squat house on Queen Street in Southport.

It's an appalling statistic, but one that would be of no surprise to frontline staff working in child safety as ambos, in our hospitals and among our police.

Daily, and at great financial cost to the state, these people are dealing with the fallout of the drugs crisis that festers beneath our noses.

As the Bulletin reported last week, between 2009-10 and 2015-16, the annual rate of methamphetamine-related hospital admissions in Queensland increased from 3.9 to 79.9 per 100,000 persons. That's 20 times the rate.

Not just hospitals, but clinics and support services of all kinds are overwhelmed.

And amid it all, innocent children suffer.

What the Gold Coast needs more than anything else is a massive crackdown, a Rudy Giuliani-style policy of zero tolerance on drug suppliers and users and every low-life in between.

Queen Street squat house

Leftists may scoff, but the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the current softly-softly, politically correct approach, one that so often sees social services ridiculously refer to drug abusers as "clients" or "customers", is not working.

If it was, why the huge numbers of drug abusers? Why so many children in care?

Mr Giuliani's zero tolerance policy while mayor of New York is often cited, because it remains instructive.

It was introduced in 1994 when New York was gripped by a crack cocaine epidemic, not entirely dissimilar to the ice epidemic affecting the Gold Coast today.

Under Giuliani's watch, the New York crime rate dropped 56 per cent.

There were many factors involved, but one significant one is that Giuliani poured resources into the New York police department. Whatever the police needed, they got.

Contrast that with the Gold Coast, where not only is Annastacia Palaszczuk's government not boosting police resources to deal with this drugs scourge, but police numbers and resources are actually dropping, and the position of top cop has been left vacant for months.

We're 88 cops down on what Ms Palaszczuk promised the Coast, and as Paul Weston reports today, about $60 million is being taken from the city's policing budget.

Criminologist Dr Terry Goldsworthy has led calls for a dedicated drugs squad on the Gold Coast. Picture: Richard Gosling
Criminologist Dr Terry Goldsworthy has led calls for a dedicated drugs squad on the Gold Coast. Picture: Richard Gosling

This is a scandal, it is the wrong approach - and it actually costs the state more money in the long run.

If police were properly resourced to tackle this crisis head on, the flow of human misery to our hospitals and social services could be stemmed.

The Government should be pumping money and extra hands into Gold Coast policing, not pumping it out into other parts of the south east.

And the Palaszczuk Government should finally order the creation of the dedicated drugs squad repeatedly called for by Bond University's Dr Terry Goldsworthy.

 

The notorious squat house on Queen Street, Southport, is finally demolished.
The notorious squat house on Queen Street, Southport, is finally demolished.

I can't help but wonder what horrors the owner of the Dora The Explorer bag witnessed in that awful squat house.

What dreams the child had, what realities she faced.

To think, the location of that stink-hole was so very close to the wonderful family playground at the Broadwater Parklands.

Did she ever visit, or did she just pass it by on the way to that squalid house - childhood heaven and childhood hell on adjoining streets.

Does she even know that just 20 minutes up the highway a movie is being made featuring the fantasy character on her backpack?

It doesn't have to be this bad. We owe it to kids like this girl to do all we can to limit the damage done by illegal drug use.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to wake up to the scale of the Gold Coast's drugs problem and take real, meaningful action. We need to resource our police, we need a dedicated drug squad, we need to go far harder on the adults who allow these horrors to persist.