Update on Ombudsman's investigation into public housing lockdown

Date posted:

Ombudsman Deborah Glass has received nearly 150 complaints and submissions about the treatment of residents at 33 Alfred Street, North Melbourne, and other public housing towers during last month’s ‘hard’ lockdown.

Ms Glass said many people had told her investigation of the ongoing distress and concern they feel, due to the lockdown’s severity and a lack of communication at the outset.

“We are hearing very strong concerns about the lack of access people had to information, as well as to fresh air, exercise and medical supplies,” Ms Glass said.

“Even with Melbourne in Stage 4 lockdown, generally most people still have access to essential supplies, fresh air and exercise.

“It is important that we document and understand what happened and learn lessons from what occurred, so that in the future the human rights of public housing tenants are recognised as much as everyone else’s.”

Ms Glass said her investigation was focusing on the Alfred Street housing tower, which was placed in a form of lockdown for 14 days, looking at:

To date, her investigation has received 89 complaints and 55 submissions from individuals and organisations, including via online discussions with affected residents, volunteers and community advocates.

The investigation is continuing to receive and analyse information and records from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Ombudsman staff are also meeting weekly with DHHS senior officials and continue to receive information about ongoing infection control and other preventive health measures across the inner-Melbourne public housing estates.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has seconded a senior officer to assist the investigation, given its expertise and the significant human rights implications of the lockdown.

Ms Glass said her office would continue to accept submissions from anyone affected until Friday 28 August 2020.

People can make submissions by:

Ms Glass thanked people and organisations who were assisting public housing residents in making submissions. Her investigation is accepting submissions in any language, and can arrange interpreters where needed.

Ms Glass is not available for further comment at this time, as the investigation is ongoing.

Media contact: Ainslie Gowan | Mob 0409 936 235 ainslie.gowan@ombudsman.vic.gov.au