NEWS: COVID-19 Government lockdowns of public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne
What is happening?
On 4 July 2020, the Victorian Government ordered what they call a ‘hard lockdown’ of 9 public housing towers across the Flemington and North Melbourne estates due to an outbreak of COVID-19. This legally requires residents to remain in their homes. The government has said this will last for at least five days for people living in flats within these Flemington and North Melbourne towers.
The Victorian Government presently has the legal power to keep people in lockdown for up to 14 days overall.
How can they do this?
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer - who is currently Dr Brett Sutton - has broad powers under the State of Emergency in place right now in Victoria for the pandemic. These are called ‘Emergency Powers’ and they include the power for police and authorised officers to detain people living in Victoria and restrict their movement.
What can they do?
Authorised officers must present their identity card unless it is impractical. If they want to enter your home they must produce their identity card. If they instruct you to do something they must give you a warning that it is against the law to not follow their instructions. Victoria Police can use force to remove you, and to stop people entering the flats.
Can I leave during the 14 days?
You will only be able to leave if authorised officers give you permission because you need to attend somewhere like a hospital, it is necessary for your physical or mental health or on compassionate grounds. You will also be able to leave if there is an emergency situation.
Can I refuse to be tested?
Yes, you can refuse to be tested. BUT if you refuse to be tested you could be detained for a further 10 days, meaning you would be forced to stay in your home until 28 July 2020.
Can other people in my estate visit me?
No, only people who usually live with you can be in your home. The only other people who will be able to go into your home are people who are authorised to be there (to provide food or medical care, for example). If you are under the age of 18, your parent or guardian can stay with you.
I usually live in the towers but i’m not there now, do I have to return?
Yes, the Emergency Powers require you to return immediately.
What happens if I do not comply?
If you do not comply with a direction to remain in your home it is an offence and you can be fined up to $20,000. It is very important that you get legal advice if you have been fined.
How can I get legal advice?
Your local community legal centres and Legal Aid have established a dedicated phone number for legal information and advice for public housing residents in lock-down.
For legal assistance of any kind call 1800 113 432 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday.
For urgent after-hours legal advice call 0434 136 501 (until Friday 10th July)
What if I am concerned about the police response?
You can seek information and advice from the help line 1800 113 432 or visit www.covidpolicing.org.au.