Published on Thursday 29, September 2022
The Victorian Government must apologise to public housing residents
Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL) supports the Victorian Ombudsman’s renewed call for the Andrews Government to apologise for the immediate lockdown of nine public housing towers during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020.
The latest Ombudsman report reiterates the Ombudsman's finding that the lockdown was not compatible with the residents’ human rights, including their right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty.
Ombudsman Deborah Glass said North Melbourne and Flemington public housing towers residents are still waiting for the implementation of her recommendation that an apology from the Government be issued.
"Public housing residents are still waiting for an apology from the Victorian Government that recognises what occurred was wrong and a breach of human rights.
"All the Victorian Government's positive actions since the lockdown have been overshadowed because they have not acknowledged that what happened was wrong and should never happen again."
Strengthen trust and engagement
IMCL has commended the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) for the investment into the public housing estates affected by the hard lockdown.
The Paving the Way Forward program had a challenging situation establishing itself during the pandemic, with restricted access to the impacted communities it sought to empower.
The program took the right approach in consulting with the community to inform the practical steps needed to address areas of concern including maintenance, health, community development and employment pathways.
“Paving the Way Forward is a good model that should be built on and expanded. We support the efforts of the program in strengthening and building community-led responses. But that will need long-term ongoing investment and support.”
“This election we will be watching the Victorian Government’s commitments towards investing in building and maintaining public housing estates and supporting residents to thrive.
“We call on the Victorian Government to now commit to securely funding integrated community support started by the Paving the Way Forward program so that positive and sustained outcomes for the community can be achieved,” an IMCL spokesperson said.
End over policing
For residents the heavy-handed use of police was wrong. Police should never have been called in to fix a health crisis.
During the pandemic we saw that people from lower-socio economic backgrounds, those who are Aboriginal and those born in Sudan and South Sudan, were more likely to be issued with COVID-19 fines.
People living in public housing estates want to know why the police continue to treat them differently to their more privileged neighbours. Racial groups should not be singled out for special treatment or attention from police.
Community legal centres have consistently called for reform to address racialised policing practices.
The Victorian Government has failed to legislate police oversight reforms as promised in this term of government. The next government must commit to legislating a new police complaints and monitoring body in the first 100 days. This must include greater transparency such as more stop and search data.
Inner Melbourne Community Legal works for inclusive and safe communities and the full realisation of human rights, which includes advocating for systemic change in many areas including police accountability.
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