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Ombudsman says housing residents felt they were ‘second-class citizens’

Article image for Ombudsman says housing residents felt they were ‘second-class citizens’

Ombudsman Deborah Glass says the government should apologise for the immediacy of the harsh lockdown imposed on residents of public housing towers.

In a scathing report released today, she found there was a breach of human rights law.

She said the hard lockdown on nine towers in July was distressing for some residents, and left them feeling as thought they were being treated as “second class citizens”.

While the evidence showed the lockdown worked, it was done without notice and enough preparation or warning to the residents, she said.

“The evidence we have is set out very clearly throughout the report, from the person who was at the chief health officer on the day, was that it was not her advice that the towers needed to be locked down immediately,” she told Heidi Murphy.

“She very clearly said to us, it would not have made a significant a difference if it had been made the following day.

“That would have made an enormous difference in terms of the planning that the department would have been able to do to ensure people had access to food, medication to the essential supports they needed.”

Health officials believed it would be another 36 hours before the towers were locked down.

But she said they were told at 2.30pm that the lockdown was being brought forward.

She said an apology from the government would go a long way.

“We have spoken to many people in the towers, many people in the communities, who were seriously distressed by what happened, and felt like they were being treated as second class citizens.

“They weren’t being treated the same as others.

“To counter-act that, I think the government would do well to acknowledge that they got this wrong.”

Press PLAY below to hear her full comments

Image: File photo

Ombudsman finds Melbourne’s public housing lockdown breached human rights

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