RISE: Refugee, Survivors and eX-detainees condemns Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew’s use of 500 police to brutally enforce a 5 day “hard lockdown” on nine public housing estates in North Melbourne and Flemington during this COVID-19 pandemic.  In addition to being low income earners, a significant number of residents are people of colour from migrant and Refugee communities.  Over the years, many RISE members, staff, volunteers and even the founder of RISE have lived in these public housing estates.

RISE members residing in the housing estates have informed us that Daniel Andrew’s government did not provide any notice of the lock down, resulting in many residents being suddenly locked out of their own homes, including families being separated and blocked from going in by Victoria police.  Since the Premier’s announcement yesterday, frantic efforts to deliver food to residents blockaded in the apartments have been useless.

The current unstoppable outbreak in Victoria stems from the quarantine hotels that have been mismanaged by the Dan Andrews government and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  We shouldn’t forget the same DHHS is also responsible for managing the North Melbourne and Flemington flats. This is a broken system that cannot be fixed by the military or police.

 African communities from the same flats have succeeded in exposing the fact that Victoria police has racially profiled and terrorised community members living here and now hundreds of Victoria police officers are being deployed by the Victorian premier to stand just outside residents’ apartment doors. There are police on every floor of the building.  This is extremely frightening and retraumatising for RISE members including eX-detainees with severe PTSD and limited English language skills. Victoria police are at the flats not to help control the virus, they are here to help Dan Andrews to control and racialise our people.

White Australia has criminalised the bodies of Refugees, all people of colour, who have come by boats to seek asylum for over 30 years by detaining every single one of them.  One of Australia’s justification for arbitrary imprisonment of Refugees who come by boat is to carry out “health checks” endorsed by The Greens, Labor and the Liberal–National Coalition.  What is now happening during this pandemic to residents in public housing flats is an extension of Australia’s Refugee detention policies.  Within the last two years the Australian government has imprisoned dozens of our people in hotels after they were evacuated here from Manus and Nauru for medical treatment.  Now our community members living in public housing flats in Melbourne are being imprisoned and policed to “contain” the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

One day we will find a vaccine for Covid-19 but we will never find a vaccine for white supremacy in Australia.