'I felt like we were being treated like prisoners' – Hassan's story of the tower lockdowns

'I felt like we were being treated like prisoners' – Hassan's story of the tower lockdowns

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Hassan (not their real name) lives in one of the nine public housing towers that underwent 'hard lockdowns' at the height of Melbourne's coronavirus crisis. This is his story of his experience, in his own words. 

I live in the housing towers in Flemington along with my family and four kids. On the day the hard lockdown happened, I found out what was happening by the police arriving at our homes. We didn’t receive any notice or information that this was going to happen to us. We didn’t notice so I could go get food for my children they like and would eat, or anything else we needed to last the hard lockdown.

I came to Australia from Dijibouti, in East Africa, in 1995. At home, we speak Somali, Arabic and French. The information the Department gave us was little and all of it in English, I got a copy of the order but I found it hard to know what my rights were.

I felt like we were being treated like prisoners, trapped in our own homes.

Most of the people in the Towers are of East African background, everyone on my floor is from East Africa – we also have some Aboriginal neighbours.

It made me think we were being treated like this because of who we were – because we were Somali or East African, our rights did not matter.

In my community, there was so much confusion about what was happening --- I was getting my information from the news and Whatsapp messages.

I couldn’t get my medicine I needed for my back problems for five days. I only could get it when I was allowed out of my house when the lockdown ended.

How I was treated, how my family was locked up with little information – I was angry and confused at why I was being treated this way, I was under so much stress I felt it in my body – because I felt caged.

It was the first time I had seen a police presence like this ever in Australia or back in Africa let alone at home, I felt scared. I felt I had lost all rights.

I know COVID-19 is a serious health matter and I want people to be safe but the way this lockdown happened made me feel unsafe and without information to understand what I could do.

I feel like if I was provided proper notice and in my language, I could share with my family, and be prepared and informed, and this distress could have been avoided.

More information

Read more about Disaster Legal Help Victoria's submission to the Ombudsman on the public housing lockdown

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