In July 2020, the Victorian Ombudsman announced an investigation into the detention and treatment of public housing residents at 33 Alfred St North Melbourne who were subject to Detention Directions due to significant COVID-19 infection at the estate.
The investigation has focused on the Victorian Government decision to apply public health directions to the North Melbourne and Flemington high-rise buildings due to the rapid rise in COVID-19 infections. It has also investigated the Victorian Government’s response and recovery activities.
The Ombudsman has made a number of findings and recommendations, which the Government will take the time to consider. However, it does not accept the findings regarding the lawfulness or legitimacy of our emergency response. The Victorian Government has at all times acted lawfully and within the applicable legislative framework.
The report also fails to adequately acknowledge that the Department of Health and Human Services was listening and acting on residents feedback on the ground, and has already actioned several of the Ombudsman’s recommendations relating to outbreak planning and preparedness, in addition to significant reform work to respond to any potential future outbreaks.
In addition to strong engagement with North Melbourne and Flemington residents and community leaders throughout the response and recovery, more work is planned.
The Victorian Budget 2020/21 will deliver $155 million to implement coronavirus preparation and prevention measures in public housing – including testing, cleaning, security, food and material aid, and community services for residents. A further investment of nearly $7.5 million will fund the Paving the Way Forward program for residents at North Melbourne and Flemington to improve health and safety outcomes and increased local employment and training opportunities.
To read the report findings and recommendations, visit www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au.