WE ARE FED UP: Locals protest over town vandalism
LIONS member Rick Grinsell set up camp outside MP Ann Leahy's office at 7.30am Friday in protest of vandalism in the Maranoa.
It followed the destruction of the new $48,000 toilet facilities at Lions Park the day before.
"Not even a month after the opening of the new toilet blocks and they're already ruined," Mr Grinsell said.
"I just saw red last night and I decided I needed to do something.
"I didn't really expect anyone besides me to show up, but that was OK.
"Eddie Mabo started by himself and look what he achieved."
The destruction of the new facilities
The two under 10 offenders were given behaviour counselling, and the under 11 vandal was given a formal caution.
"We've watered down our legislation so much that its become meaningless and the police can only give them a slap on the wrist," Mr Grinsell said.
"They're frustrated, the courts are frustrated and it's become a perpetual cycle that is only going to become worse unless we take action."
The new toilet block at Lions Park was part of an ongoing project to ensure people of all abilities had accessible toilet facilities at the park.
"There was not one cent of ratepayer money that went into that new block and the whole idea was that you could take a kid or an adult in a wheelchair and they had a loo," Mr Grinsell said.
"Then three little s---ts go and do that. It's not fair to the community and it's not fair to us. Every Lion has plenty of other things they can be doing.
"I'm just over it. There's hardly any business owners in Roma that haven't been impacted by vandalism of some sort."
Community taking action
Fed up residents Grant and Dale Baker and fellow Lions member Gary Law joined the protest after seeing the incident splashed all over Facebook and decided they needed to take more action.
"I've been here my whole life and the things that have gone on in the last couple of years, I've never seen anything like it," Grant said.
"The bigger the numbers we get at these, the more people will start to notice - and that's exactly why I'm here.
"We can't all just sit on the sidelines, and while it's very easy to sit behind a keyboard that's not going to change anything."
Mr Baker believes setting children strict rules and boundaries from a young age was fundamental to reducing vandalism.
"It's nothing to do with being in a lower socio- economic group because we grew up really poor and it was never like that," he said.
"Kids do respond really well to rules and boundaries which I found at boarding school.
"These kids are probably struggling in the sense that they're trying to fit into a gang or group and feel accepted.
"We're all responsible for raising our kids in a responsible matter. I feel like we need to change the legislation in the state, so that their guardian is held to account."
Ongoing issue in the Maranoa
The destruction of the toilet blocks was one of many appalling acts of vandalism in the Maranoa over the past few years, and Mr Grinsell said he was sick and tired of the community being left to pick up the pieces.
"We used to have a rainwater tank, and came across a young girl straddling over it and urinating in it, with all these kids and adults around her cheering," he said.
"The lady who cleans the toilets for the council dreads school holidays, because it's the same thing every year.
"She's found dead kangaroos, excrement all over the walls, it's disgusting.
"Then there was a period of time where some clowns were using the sprinklers as tees for practising their golf and every time they would miss a shot they would wipe out one of the sprinklers. That's $70 a sprinkler plus our volunteer time.
"It's just not fair."
Mr Grinsell said the only solution was to change the laws.
"When people know that there is a serious, significant deterrent for their actions, only then things will change," he said.
What can we do as a community?
Maranoa councillor Cameron O'Neil said he had seen an increase of commentary on social media about crime in the past 18 months and suggested implementing a neighbourhood watch group.
"I think what's happened is disgusting. The Lions club of Roma have been working tirelessly for these improvements and to ensure the park has the facilities for all abilities to use, so to be vandalised in this way is appalling," Cr O'Neil said.
"Community minded groups like the Lions that are willing to invest their own time and their own resources are the last people who deserve something like this so we have to do whatever we can to stop this.
"We need to put something in place so the community can have their say, be more in tune with these sort of acts of vandalism and help support the police to stamp out this behaviour.
"I'm very happy to hear from members of the community to hear their thoughts on the idea."
The protest was a good start, but Mr Grinsell knew he had a long way to go in achieving change.
"We will need to do a massive day of action at the park and see then whether the community gives a damn," he said.
"If we get 100 people then we know Roma doesn't give a damn, if we get 1000 then we have something that we can get a petition going.
"I will continue to push this, I'll push it to Ann and push it David Littleproud and push it to the premier.
"I will write letters if I have to, but I can't do this on my own so I seek the support of the community.
"We need to make our people strong and proud to be part of our community."