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Public Housing health response should be led by care, not force

Media Release
Adam Bandt 5 Jul 2020

The Greens have today said the Andrews State Government’s unprecedented lockdown of social housing blocks had created appalling outcomes for tenants, urging the government to consider a ‘care first’ response instead of the forceful response exercised so far.

State and Federal members for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell MP and Adam Bandt MP also said the state government’s long term neglect of public housing facilities was a contributor to the harsh response.

While at the tower blocks earlier today, Adam and Ellen spoke with several residents from their rooms, who expressed their fear and uncertainty about a lack of information about support services on offer.

Lines from Adam Bandt MP, Australian Greens Member for Melbourne

“My thoughts and I hope the thoughts of everyone in this country are with people now in these flats, who are enduring something few others have had to go through during this crisis.

“The state government needs to seriously listen to residents and give them what they need. Right now, we’re seeing very little information flow through to people who have been locked in their apartments, and many people are terrified.

“These restrictions are unprecedented within the national coronavirus response. We've all had to give things up, and we've all had to endure restrictions, but public housing tenants are facing a total lockdown with no access to the outdoors for up to two weeks.

“The Greens have backed and continue to back the Andrews’ government health-first response, and continue to do so. Indeed, if the rest of the country had followed the Victorian government’s lead at the start, we may be further down the New Zealand road towards eradication.

“However, by neglecting the people in public housing over many years, the state government has contributed to these harsh measures being taken.

“These towers are overcrowded and cramped, with communal lifts and laundry facilities often being in serious disrepair. We have been telling the government this as recently as last month, but got no response.

“What’s worse, when this crisis first hit, people in these towers received very little information in languages they could understand about how to tackle the coronavirus. When we tried to give information in community languages, we were blocked by the state government. 

“The state government has to do better to look after people in public housing.”

Lines from Ellen Sandell MP, Victorian Greens Member for Melbourne

“I am very concerned about the welfare of residents who are stuck inside these buildings in overcrowded conditions with no access to the outdoors. When the police swept in last night, people told us they were terrified. 

“24 hours after lockdown started, we are still hearing from residents that they are not getting access to the support services they need, or even information about where to go if they have specific needs. 

“This has been a force-led response, not a care-led response. There is no reason why the government had to send in only the police yesterday without welfare workers, social workers, and translators. It’s unacceptable.

“I've spoken with a woman whose grandmother relies on care workers to cook for her, and she's been told those care workers are cancelled. She’s not been given any information about how she will access the services that she needs. 

“We’ve had people tell us they were given food boxes with WeetBix but no milk, jam but no bread, and they cannot leave to get groceries or have friends and family bring it to them. We wouldn’t accept this for ourselves, so why do we accept it for public housing residents?

“This is simply not good enough. In a wealthy country, and a wealthy state like Victoria, we should be able to look after people.”

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