Government failed public housing residents, report is a wake-up call and must lead to real change

Australian Greens

The Victorian Greens have said the Ombudsman’s report into the hard lockdown of nine public housing towers needs to serve as a wake-up call to Andrews Labor Government on its treatment of public housing residents.

The report revealed that the government breached the human rights of 3,000 tenants when it placed the towers into an immediate hard lockdown in July.

The damning report also found the lockdown was based on unfounded ‘security concerns’ which were based on incorrect stereotypical assumptions about public housing residents, that people’s urgent requests for medicines were delayed or neglected for several days, that translated information about why people were being detained was not provided for five or six days, and that the urgency of the lockdown was not based on health advice.

Due to the disorganised and haphazard process implemented during the lockdowns, many residents were left without food, medicine or information, while being confined in prison-like conditions.

During the hard lockdown, local Greens MP Ellen Sandell worked with a mum who was prevented from seeing her sick newborn baby in intensive care in hospital for five days, an elderly woman who relied on care workers to cook for her was left without food and information for days, and a woman had to reuse insulin needles for her diabetic six-year-old, among countless other cases.

The report also found that the decision to detain the 3,000 public housing residents was not based on direct public health advice, but rather a political decision made by the Crisis Council of Cabinet two hours before it took place, and the Deputy Chief Health Officer was only given 15 minutes to sign off on the decision.

Deputy Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell, said the hard lockdowns were a blight on Victoria’s health response and treated public housing residents like second-class citizens.

Ms Sandell says the Government must apologise to the residents of Flemington and North Melbourne, saying it’s the least the government can do to fix the damage that has been done.

The Greens also want the government to establish a dedicated public housing ombudsman to oversee the state’s public housing sector, handle complaints from tenants and monitor the government’s ability to look after existing public housing units.

As stated by Deputy Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell MP:

“The Greens have always supported the government’s health-led response to the COVID crisis, but the public housing lockdown was a shambolic decision that treated public housing residents as second-class citizens. No-one else in Victoria has been forced to stay home and prevented from receiving essential food and medicine.

“This needs to be a wake-up call to the Andrews Labor Government to treat public housing communities with the same respect and dignity as any other Victorian.

“A public apology is the very least the government can do to fix the damage that has been done. The Greens also want to see a dedicated public housing ombudsman set up to hold the Government to account and deal with residents concerns and complaints, and an overhaul of the way the Government does community consultation in public housing.”

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