A former Queensland Government employee and Kaurareg woman says she has been left "traumatised" after arriving home yesterday to find more than half a dozen police officers standing at her front door.
Luisa O’Connor, a former executive and regional director with Queensland's Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (DATSIP), told NITV News an eviction notice to vacate her home followed a sudden termination from her role in May last year after she submitted a complaint against a colleague.
On Wednesday, Ms O'Connor, a recognised Traditional Owner on Thursday Island, said she had been living in the government-owned house for 14 years, but on returning home from paying her rent was "completely shocked" to find the police waiting on the doorstep and a shipping container sitting on the front lawn.
"It was quite a shock to have so many police officers in uniform and some in plain clothing come to attend to my removal," said Ms O'Connor.
"It's traumatising because it reminds me of us, as traditional land owners here on Thursday Island, that this is what our Great-Grandfathers went through...forced removal in 1920, 1921 by the Government polices at the time."
Ms O'Connor said the matter of the termination of her role with DATSIP had not yet been finalised with the department, which gave her reason to believe she was still entitled to reside in her home until the matter was resolved.
Lawyer and Executive Director of Cultural Advocacy Legal Mediation, Linda Ryle, on Wednesday told NITV News that Ms O'Connor had been discriminated against and said she was being unfairly treated.
“It’s had a huge attack on her dignity, and she’s been humiliated and discriminated against because she had a lawful right to complain about somebody in her workplace,” said Ms Ryle.
“I’ve been told from Luisa that people actually think there’s been a murder because there’s been so many police outside her house."
Ms Ryle said there is currently "a huge housing crisis in the Torres Strait" and if Ms O’Connor were to be evicted, the Traditional Owner would have to leave the Island.
“There are no homes vacant on the island, and in fact, there are families that are currently living in Cairns, Darwin and Townsville who are waiting to return to their Country because any houses that are there, that could be vacant, are taken up by public servants," she said.
“If they were to evict Aunty, she has nowhere to go…nowhere."
In a written statement provided to NITV News on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for DATSIP said the department was taking the "necessary action" in relation to evicting Ms O'Connor.
"The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships is taking necessary action in relation to a former employee who ceased employment in May 2019," said the statement.
"The former employee has been notified of the requirement to vacate the premise since that time."
The spokesperson said for Ms O'Connor to stay in the home and be eligible for "Government Employment Housing [GEH]," she needed to still be employed by the government and that "being a Traditional Owner does not change GEH eligibility."
Ms O'Connor said she is currently seeking an injunction to stop the department from evicting her.
* This article has been updated at Ms O'Conner's request to clarify that she is a recognised descendant of the Kaurareg people and a member of the Kaurareg Native Title Aboriginal Corporation.