Concerns Remain for Melbourne Tower Residents

July 6, 2020 Updated: July 6, 2020

Thousands of residents in Melbourne public housing towers still haven’t received enough food and supplies, two days into the coronavirus lockdown.

Nine towers in Flemington and North Melbourne were locked down on Saturday in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, with 3000 residents unable to leave their apartments for any reason for at least five days. 

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the towers have almost doubled, from 27 on Sunday to 53 on Monday from about 400 tests, as testing ramps up and police continue to patrol entrances and corridors.

The state government says it has distributed 3000 meals, 1000 food hampers and 250 personal care packs to residents, while the charity FareShare has provided more than 3000 prepared meals and 4500 pastries. 

The government is also delivering bread and milk to residents after the staples were missing from hampers on Sunday. 

Abdirahman Ibrahim, who lives in the Racecourse Road tower, told AAP his family is yet to receive a box of groceries, but they have received formula and one litre of milk.

Ahmed Dini, a resident of a North Melbourne tower and a social worker, told ABC News Breakfast some residents hadn’t received groceries as of Monday morning. 

Residents have shared images on social media of out-of-date meals, food left on the floor and Muslim families given pork.

Victorian Council of Social Services CEO Emma King said she was concerned culturally appropriate meals were not being provided by the government.

“We need to make sure we’re hearing directly from the residents on the estate around what they need and making sure we deliver on that,” she told AAP.

King also noted residents were given copies of the public health orders or “detention directives” on Sunday night, sparking confusion over the term of the lockdown which could last as long as 14 days.

“Any of us, to have police on your doorstep, handing a detention notice we can’t understand, it would be really frightening,” she said.

“It is a very fine, precarious balance. We need to save lives first and foremost but we need to make sure people get the support that they need and they aren’t terrified through the process.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said he wanted to reassure everyone in the towers they would be looked after.

“There are literally hundreds and thousands of people working – from police to social workers, to nurses and doctors, all the way through to people working in our supermarkets, people working in commercial kitchens … they are all doing their absolute best,” he said. 

He added halal meals have been handed out by the Victorian Trades Hall in partnership with social enterprise Moving Feast.

Sikh organisations have also set up outside the towers, offering hot vegetarian meals to residents.

Sikh Volunteers Australia vice president Manpreet Singh said they were serving fresh vegetarian meals, bringing about 650 serves from their Cranbourne base.

“Nearly 400 meals we have already served (by about 7pm),” he said on Sunday. 

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has been preparing 2000 culturally appropriate meals it plans to hand out in the coming days. 

By Benita Kolovos and Andi Yu