When Victorians sought to tackle this virus, not all Victorians were treated equally. When important health measures were taken, some of us were afforded more rights and time to prepare than others. Those in public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington were faced with a hard lockdown with no notice. Police were immediately positioned outside their homes. This served as a stark reminder that not everyone is treated equally in our society. Not all of us are made to feel like we belong.
'The Premier said we are in this together, but actions speak louder than words and their actions show we are not in this together,' said one resident, who told us how they felt singled-out from the rest of Victoria.
'It feels like to them we are a criminal, and not even human beings. That we are not even Australians.'
Being one of the first organisations on the scene, Inner Melbourne Community lawyers witnessed first-hand the way in which local public housing residents were initially sidelined by decision-makers and the impact this had on the fulfilment of their human rights.
We also saw how the residents mobilised together to take action where the government failed. We backed their demands for food, fresh air, medical care and exercise, advocated for a more proportionate response, and called for an independent investigation.
The Victorian Ombudsman's report into the hard lockdown validated the experience of residents and that there was a profound abuse of their most basic human rights.
While the report goes a long way towards recognising the harm done to the community and the trust that was broken, the government has not accepted its recommendations. There is still more work to do.