Tenants lose battle to stay at Blackstone school

STAYING PUT: Bundamba Sub-Section Naval Association of Australia members (from left) Bill Krause, Fred Kirby, Gary Rankin, Ron Baker, Mary Kirby and Kurt Geipel refuse to leave Blackstone School.
STAYING PUT: Bundamba Sub-Section Naval Association of Australia members (from left) Bill Krause, Fred Kirby, Gary Rankin, Ron Baker, Mary Kirby and Kurt Geipel refuse to leave Blackstone School. David Nielsen

NAVAL Association members at the former Blackstone State School are moving out after losing a fight against eviction by the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE).

Bundamba Sub-Section president Ron Baker said tenants were asked to hand over the keys to the heritage-listed buildings.

"DETE wanted us to vacate the place by (January 16)," Mr Baker said.

"We've got it all packed up.

"I've got a stay of execution till Monday at 9am."

The association will be operating out of the Goodna RSL function centre.

"We're still going to be providing counsellors for veterans," Mr Baker said.

He said the Blackstone school buildings would go to "rack and ruin" with no one on site to look after them.

Ipswich Genealogical Society, another tenant at the school, was also made homeless last week by DETE after previously being tossed out of the old Ipswich TAFE building on Ellenborough St.

DETE plans to sell both the Blackstone school and TAFE properties.

 Naval Association members were preparing to stay put last week.

Three tenants at the school - the Bundamba Sub-Section Naval Association of Australia, Ipswich Genealogical Society and the Ipswich Historical Society - were told in a letter from DETE in August to vacate the property by January 10 to enable the department to "dispose" of the property.

Genealogical society members moved most of their records and equipment out on January 11 after DETE threatened to bring in police to evict them.

Mr Baker said at the time his members and the valuable war memorabilia in their safekeeping were staying put.

"We're staying because we have nowhere to go," Mr Baker said.

"We're sticking it out, working on the fact that we were told by the previous government that we had the place till June."

DETE's executive director Vince White told The Advertiser that his statement made in December was still valid.

"The department is progressing with the disposal of the former Blackstone State School site in accordance with whole of government land policies," Mr White said.

"Notice to vacate letters were provided to the community groups occupying the former Blackstone State School in August 2012.

"This was sufficient notice to enable these groups to make other accommodation arrangements."

Ipswich Historical Society president Ian Wilson said he would remain at the school in the hope that the property could be saved for community groups.

"I'm not impressed with (DETE) throwing everyone out," he said.

Ipswich Genealogical Society secretary Audrey Dillon said her group moved into the former school a year ago on the understanding that the lease was valid till June 2013, and that an extension of that lease would be negotiated.

"The new (state) government just cancelled the lease," she said.

"We've all tried to ring or send letters to the Education Department and they refuse to talk to us."

The genealogical society has found six months' temporary storage for its records and equipment.

"We've got records of pioneers who worked to create the city of today," Ms Dillon said.

"The society will be temporarily out of action, sadly."

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