Ombudsman renews call for government apology to public housing tenants

Victoria’s ombudsman has renewed her call for the Andrews government to apologise to public housing residents affected by the immediate, hard lockdown of nine towers during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Deborah Glass did not criticise the decision to lock 3000 residents in their units while infections threatened to spread through the estates, but in December 2020 said the failure to provide any notice or allow for tenants to prepare breached their human rights. She called on the government to apologise for that.

Residents locked in their homes during the July 2020 closure of nine public housing towers.Credit:Penny Stephens

The government has declined to apologise and has previously said it did not agree the lockdown may have breached the law or human rights.

In a biannual report card tabled in the Victorian parliament on Wednesday, Glass said an expression of regret could help the government rebuild trust.

“The North Melbourne and Flemington public housing towers residents are still waiting for an apology from the government,” Glass said in her report.

“Given its unwillingness to accept my recommendation, it seems unlikely one will ever be offered. But even with the amount of time that has now passed, acknowledging the impact of the hard lockdown and expressing regret would be an important step toward rebuilding trust and helping affected residents heal.”

The lockdown lasted five days at eight of the nine towers. But high infection rates meant residents at 33 Alfred Street, North Melbourne, were subject to another nine days of isolation.

It’s likely Premier Daniel Andrews will be questioned about the ombudsman’s report at a press conference in Wantirna on Wednesday morning (see the live stream above).

More to come

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