The name of a jailed former mayor who committed sexual assault, corruption and other offences may be stripped from a street and a bridge after a Queensland councillor expressed regret for voting to keep his name on the infrastructure.
Paul Pisasale, a former mayor of Ipswich west of Brisbane, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in 2020 after pleading guilty to more than 30 offences.
Last Thursday, five of the nine councillors on Ipswich city council voted to overturn an earlier decision to remove Pisasale’s name from a street in Yamanto and a bridge in Springfield.
On Monday, Russell Milligan, who was among the five councillors who voted to retain the Pisasale name on the bridge and street, said he made the wrong decision.
“Having had time to reconsider and hear the concerns of my community, I admit that I had made the wrong decision. I intend to work with my fellow councillors to amend my mistake,” Milligan said in a statement.
“Without reservation, I unconditionally apologise to anyone who is a victim of crime, especially sexual assault, and in particular, anyone who was a victim of the crimes committed by the former mayor.”
This comes as the Ipswich mayor, Teresa Harding, and councillors Marnie Doyle, Andrew Fechner and Kate Kunzelmann said they intend to bring the matter – which had left residents “outraged” – back to a vote.
In a joint statement, they said they will seek to have the bridge and road renamed, in consultation with relevant Indigenous groups and in line with community sentiment.
“To have a convicted criminal and sex offender’s name on any public asset is not acceptable,” they said.
“We intend to listen to the community and stand up for all victims of sexual violence, and for the residents of our community who do not want to honour someone responsible for one of the darkest chapters in our city’s history.”
They will seek to have the matter addressed at a council meeting on 12 July.
Harding initially moved a mayoral minute to remove Pisasale’s name from the street and bridge in December, which was supported by six councillors with three abstaining.
On Thursday two of those who had previously abstained from voting – Paul Tully and Nicole Jonic – voted to retain the Pisasale name on the infrastructure.
Jonic has defended the decision, saying an engagement report didn’t represent community attitudes.
“The original report … presented 6,968 community views on the matter relating to the renaming of council assets. The report found 88.5% of the overall community sentiment was to leave the names as is,” Jonic said. “However, the report that was tabled only included 528 community views.”
Jonic said she had written to the Minister for Local Government and he had forwarded her concerns on to relevant investigative bodies.
“As a victim of child sex abuse, I will always stand by and defend the rights of victims,” she said.
Harding said she was “personally shocked” by the vote.
“I’m the first female mayor of Ipswich in our 162-year history,” she said. “As a woman … I can’t comprehend why anyone would want to continue to honour the name of a convicted sex offender.”
The state MP for Ipswich, Jen Howard, said she was disappointed by last week’s decision.
“This was an opportunity for them to remove the stain that’s left on our city,” she said.
Last year, when she was nine years old, Malia Knox started a campaign to recognise women after realising only 3% of statues in Australia were of women and there was only three statues of women in Brisbane.
Howard said removing Pisasale’s names from the road and bridge was a chance to recognise remarkable women from Ipswich’s history, as Knox had called for.
“This is an opportunity for council to not only right the wrong but also to get some women’s names up to on these public infrastructure,” she said.