December 03, 2012
The Pontville Detention Centre near Hobart could house children when it re-opens.
The detention centre will accept its first batch of asylum seekers in two weeks, initially housing up to 400 men, mainly from Afghanistan.
But an Immigration Department spokeswoman admits Pontville’s use “may change to other client groups over time”.
The ABC understands there are plans to also accommodate children who come to Australia without their parents.
Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support’s Emily Conolon says Pontville in not child-friendly.
“Even if you put playgrounds and classrooms in there, it still wouldn’t make it acceptable to hold children in immigration detention among adults who are deeply depressed and suicidal,” she said.
The ABC understands the department only intends to open the centre for 12 months.
Unions Tasmania is worried locals workers will miss out on job opportunities from the re-opening.
The company contracted to run the facility, Serco, has advertised for 30 workers on its website.
Some positions are only open to internal applicants.
Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins says that raises questions about how many Tasmanians will be employed at Pontville.
“We accept that there will be some specialist people coming from interstate, especially initially, to get Pontville up and running again,” he said.
“But certainly our strong preference is to make sure that those jobs go to Tasmanian workers.
“There were people employed out there before from this state, they should get preference.”
A Serco spokesman says local workers will be given preference for more than 200 jobs.
He says previous employees will be able to apply.
Several workers remained with the company as fly-in-fly-out workers when the centre closed in March.
Helen Gibbons from the union United Voice says the re-opening should offer local workers more stability.
“There’s still at least 50 or 60 people who are based in Hobart that work for Serco, that fly all across the country,” she said.
“There’s quite a number of them and they’ll be really pleased to go back to a good working environment.”