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HACSU Public Statement

2020-07-08

As Melbourne prepares for a further six weeks of lockdown, HACSU continues to be profoundly concerned by the immediate and long-term mental health impacts of the ongoing hard lockdowns of public housing towers in Flemington, Kensington, and North Melbourne.

“We take the Victorian Government at its word that this hard lockdown was a proportionate and necessary public health response,” said HACSU State Secretary Paul Healey. “However, what is unarguable, is that this response has created a terrifying and unprecedented situation for these thousands of residents to find themselves subject to, by force. It will undoubtedly create long term, cumulative harm and trauma for many, many people, including young children”.

HACSU calls on the Victorian Government to urgently provide details of a long-term funding pool for specialist mental health support for residents of the affected public housing towers.

“Looking out of your window to see an armed police operation will cause post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and profound distress for an already inherently vulnerable and marginalised community” said HACSU Assistant State Secretary Kate Marshall. “The Victorian Government must not turn a blind eye to the inevitable mental health needs that will emerge from this week’s lockdown, and must instead provide immediate, and culturally and linguistically appropriate support to all Victorians affected by the hard lockdowns”.

Poor quality and overcrowded housing is a well understood, intersectional social determinant of mental ill-health and a driver of systemic social exclusion. It is also, in the context of a global pandemic, a public health risk to residents and to the wider community. The Victorian State Government should take these stark learnings as an opportunity to commit to a significant expansion of high quality, safe and dignified public housing stock.

The ongoing police and public health operation has created complex and arguably unprecedented tensions and trade-offs with fundamental human rights.  HACSU and its members have provided support to government and community organisations working at the frontline of service delivery at the towers, and has today been attempting to coordinate the delivery of a non-cash donation to residents in the towers.

HACSU and its members stand in solidarity with all residents of the towers under lockdown.  

HACSU and its members stand in solidarity with all residents of the towers under lockdown.