Peter Khalil: As someone who grew up in public housing it is upsetting and concerning that during this health crisis the people in our community who are most socio-economically disadvantaged and vulnerable now face a hard lockdown, harsher even than on all other residents of postcodes 3051 and 3031, who do not live in public housing towers.
I understand the need for a health response from the Victorian state government, given the risks of high density housing. I also note the greater difficulty policing suburban lock-down areas. However, I also understand the anger and fear being expressed by residents.
Many residents are already faced with the challenges of language and communication barriers, are new migrants and already experience socio-economic disadvantage.
People living in these nine towers are now subject to another layer of disadvantage based on their residence being high-density housing.
While I have no doubt that residents want to do the right thing for their health, the health of their family and that of the broader community, they also deserve to have their questions answered. This is what I have heard clearly from community leaders.
What, if any, other responses could have been pursued by governments to mitigate the pandemic risks to high-density public housing?
Residents of public housing deserve to know what, if any, proactive plans by all levels of government were made to safeguard them during this pandemic?
What communications and health policies can be put in place to prevent lockdown?
This lockdown also raises the question about what, if anything, are state and local governments doing to prevent a similar situation across other Victorian public housing estates?
Why weren’t elders and community leaders consulted and asked to help channel relevant health information?
For my community I sent out letters in April in six languages other than English and had ads in multiple languages on SBS radio for better verbal communication of health information.
We have seen an outpouring of support for the wider Victorian community and that is welcome but the disadvantage that so many people living in public housing experience on a daily basis in not new. It is simply being spotlighted because of the health crisis.
I urge local, state and federal government to use this moment to make real and lasting investment and reform to the public housing system.
If equality of opportunity is to be real it must be about access to quality education, health care and housing so let’s take this opportunity to implement some long standing policy solutions and direct more funding where it is, clearly, urgently needed.
We all must all continue to play our role by following the health advice but we are only all in this together if the voices of all Victorians are heard by their government.
The people in nine public housing towers have a right to ask these questions. They deserve to know what pre-emptive actions were taken to avoid these extreme steps from being necessary.
My office is open and ready to assist the community in any way possible during this challenging time: firstname.lastname@example.org / 03 9350 5777.
MEDIA CONTACT: Kat Theodosis – 0432 243 569