I am writing regarding your recent decision to shutdown nine public housing towers and deploy police to ensure compliance of this hard lockdown.
When we first had Corona hit Australian shores I was impressed with your leadership. You took decisive and thoughtful action to introduce a lockdown and close down schools. You listened to the community about what they needed to reduce anxiety and fear.
As Victorians entered lockdown and moved to remote working, teaching and learning we did this with love in our hearts. With the belief that we were helping each other ensure that the virus would not decimate our population and lead to the horrendous number of deaths which were seen in other countries that had no time to prepare.
We knew that we would not be free of this virus until there was a vaccination, which would be at least 18 months away or perhaps might not ever get developed, but we were buying time to ensure we had capacity to provide medical healthcare to all who got sick. This was a sacrifice we were making for the greater good of as many people as possible, especially those who were most vulnerable to this virus.
When the numbers stabilised we exited out of lockdown with relief and joy. We had achieved our goal. We had reduced the numbers, educated the community, built capacity and succeeded in our mission to reduce fatalities.
And then the numbers started growing again and all of these were traced to security guards who worked in hotels that were quarantining returned visitors. Even though you were aware that the government had not provided adequate personal protective equipment to these workers, or adequate training for dealing with this virus, you went to the media and vilified these people. You blamed them for spreading the virus by using the same lighter, by carpooling, by having family gatherings and called them super-spreaders.
You created an us and them mentality by pointing out that these workers, who were in low paying jobs that exploited them heavily with no agency or adequate support, were the ones to blame. You incited fear in the community and created the narrative that anyone who was sick with the virus was in some way culpable for contracting it.
You then made the decision to lockdown suburbs that apparently had high numbers of transmission. Suburbs that were full of people from low socio-economic backgrounds, with newly arrived migrants, and people from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds, among them my suburb of St Albans. You talked of policing these areas and following protocols. But all I heard was that if you are poor, ethnic, a person of colour, then you are the problem. You are responsible for this illness. You created an environment of blame, of division, of fear, and prejudice.
And then yesterday you further confirmed your racist and classist policies by placing nine public housing towers in hard lockdown and deploying police to ensure that these people are compliant. Again these are people who are from low socio economic background, who are migrants, refugees, non English speaking, and disenfranchised.
Again you knew from the experiences of other countries who had experienced this virus that high density housing was the most vulnerable to the spread of virus. You took no action in providing more education, sanitation, cleaning, community engagement. Currently there are reports of broken lifts, of hand sanitation stations not being refilled. Small actions that we know make a huge difference to stop the spread of the virus. Instead you chose to lock these people up, treat them like criminals even though they are victims of nothing more than poverty.
You know that these people are at risk of being subject to racial profiling, that they have fraught relationships with police, and that in fact the police themselves, just like the security guards you used for quarantine hotels, are not trained or experienced in dealing with this issue. The responsibility of police is to enact law and order and you have effectively positioned this as a criminal matter. That public house residents are guilty of spreading the disease and must be treated as such.
You have introduced a lockdown on people who are the most vulnerable from the economic consequences of such and who bear a heavy mental health toll. While this lockdown has been introduced we are hearing stories of people dying from not receiving life saving treatment because hospitals are turning away those with corona symptoms. Vaccines of babies have been paused when we know that this is a life saving measure for vulnerable babies. We have mental health issues in the community from economic stress and the consequences of being locked up isolated.
I once supported you and your leadership, but now I am honestly terrified of where you are leading Victorians and the way that you are purposely stoking fears about poor people being the problem. You are using the virus to make draconian decisions and using fear and prejudice to create support in the community for these decisions.
You made the statement in your last press conference that we must accept the corona normal-so then stop these divisive policies. Focus on being proactive in dealing with the spread of the virus. On providing care and support to those who are most vulnerable. On introducing health measures rather than criminal measures.
This virus has created a time of great uncertainty and fear. You have the opportunity to be a leader who brings the community together rather than turns us on each other.
I hope you heed my plea, however I have great fear that you won’t.