Our public housing residents deserve an apology

Our public housing residents deserve an apology

Melburnians watched on in shock when in July 2020,500 police officers were dispatched to barricade the nine Flemington and NorthMelbourne housing commission towers as part of Victoria’s COVID response

Some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people were subject to unprecedented restrictions, locking them in their homes for over five days.

These small and often overcrowded units are home to many migrant families, who fled conflict overseas, only to have their most basic human rights taken from them by this Labor Government.

So it is no surprise that here we are, almost three years later, where the Premier Daniel Andrews is looking to settle a class action lawsuit brought by residents, for $5million.

Where is the apology from the State Government? Any settlement should come with a full apology to residents, and a promise that this will never happen again.

I agree that politicians during the outbreak of the pandemic only had a short space of time, and were forced to make really tough calls during critical times.

But when those calls are wrong, leadership is about owning those mistakes. The announcement of this settlement is clearly an acknowledgement they made the wrong call, and thousands of vulnerable Victorians paid the price for that mistake.

They felt abandoned by their Government. They were treated like prisoners by their Premier, and felt a response designed to protect them had instead inflicted harm and humiliation.

The decent thing to do would be apologise, but residents are not being given that closure by this Government.

Residents have long highlighted how they were “singled out” in the public housing blocks, being locked down when other large apartment buildings across the city stayed open.

Why was it that elderly residents who require visits from carers several times a day had no warning, distressing families that could not even attend themselves to ensure their own parents and grandparents were receiving the meals and medical care they needed?

They felt that public health advice in the suburbs should match advice in the towers. If living conditions in public housing are so much riskier than elsewhere then we need to ask why.

“No other community has been treated this way, and those of us in the surrounding streets feel the strain of the blatant inequality.”

Yaqub Hashi, a resident of one of the North Melbourne towers said at the time the cumulative effect of that week had made him feel as though he was living in a two-tiered city, that "it's giving us the feeling that because you live in public housing, it's easier to shut you up — it's not fair."

It wasn’t fair, and Labor should show the leadership to admit that.


Evan Mulholland is the Liberal Member for Northern Metropolitan Region and Shadow Cabinet Secretary.

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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