Public housing residents still waiting for an apology, Ombudsman saysDate posted:
Saying sorry is the right thing to do. The public housing towers with the only lockdown, before or since, announced with no warning whatsoever.
This was an horrific tragedy for us. The police were all over the area. We couldn't, you know, go outside get fresh air. We just pretty much, as I say, we were much just in prison basically.
No one wants to say what happened to public housing residents on July 4 2020 happen again to anyone anywhere. An apology that acknowledges the unfair differential treatment is a critical step to heal the harm, restore trust and rebuild broken relationships.
I think the government is just, we he does apologies so we can move on
Acknowledging era, even during a global pandemic where quick decisions are needed, and showing regret help, would help to start this process for many while rebuilding trust.
Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says it is disappointing the State Government is yet to apologise to public housing residents a year after they were suddenly placed into lockdown, which she had found to be a breach of their human rights.
A key recommendation from the Ombudsman’s investigation, tabled in Parliament last December, was for the Victorian Government to apologise to the tower residents, acknowledging the impact of their immediate detention, leaving many without food, essential medical and other supplies, no access to fresh air and surrounded by police.
“It continues to be the only lockdown, before or since, announced with no notice whatsoever – and giving rise to the obvious impression it was made on the grounds of security rather than public health,” Ms Glass said.
“It’s disappointing the State Government has not accepted a key recommendation to say sorry for that.
“I continue to make it clear that I did not recommend an apology for the lockdown itself - the Government need not apologise for taking necessary action to keep us all safe. It was for the immediacy of the lockdown, that we found was not based on direct public health advice.”
Ms Glass said the investigation found basic human rights were breached and were not considered when the rushed lockdown was announced on July 4 last year affecting about 3,000 residents in the North Melbourne and Flemington public housing towers to help control a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We were told at the time an apology would go a long way to heal the wounds of many who experienced chaos and confusion as police suddenly surrounded their homes,” she said.
“Acknowledging error, even during a global pandemic where quick decisions are needed, and showing regret, would help start this process for many while rebuilding trust.”
Ms Glass is pleased the State Government has implemented other recommendations including some amendments to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act to increase safeguards around the use of detention powers, and is progressing its implementation of the others, including better engagement with residents.
“It’s certainly encouraging that a year on, it hasn’t happened again. The Government has implemented many of my recommendations, and I’m pleased to see greater safeguards now in place and better communication with residents.”
The investigation found while public health officials originally expected the lockdown would start within 36 hours, Premier Daniel Andrews announced at 4pm that the lockdown would begin immediately with residents of one public housing tower waiting more than a week to be allowed outside under supervision for fresh air. Ms Glass said proper consideration of human rights would have allowed more time to communicate and at least to some degree, better plan the public health response.
“This could have reduced or eliminated much of the distress that followed,” she said.