Breakdowns, calls, deliveries: How communities in Flemington and North Melbourne are responding to lockdown

Police are seen enforcing a lockdown at public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington, Melbourne. Source: AAP

The lockdown of nine housing estates towers in Flemington, North Melbourne and Kensington has left residents anxious. A key concern is the provision of nappies, sanitary products and food.

The lockdown of housing estates in Flemington and North Melbourne has left members of the community afraid. 

“Our priority was to make the hard decisions to fight this virus and keep the community safe, and now we’re supporting those Victorians who’ve made this possible,” Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement on Sunday

The chief focus for the 3,000 people now locked inside their flats has been the shortage of supplies. 

Community groups who are in contact with residents told The Feed people don’t have adequate supplies. Parents are in need of nappies, nappy cream, baby wipes, baby formula, baby food, and bottles to last the full duration of the lockdown -- and some have already run out of stock.

There is also a considerable lack of medicines like Panadol and Nurofen, as well as first aid kits.

Supplies of hand sanitizer, sanitary pads and toilet paper are also low.

We spoke to residents and those trying to provide supplies to them, about how people are dealing with the shortage. 

'I have nothing to tell them. I'm just confused'

Mohamed has been coordinating food resources and support for people in the North Melbourne housing estates. He is one of the residents now locked inside the building. He woke up on Sunday morning to a view of police surrounding his building.

"I have been responding to calls from neighbours and people that are freaking about getting food and medicine. I am trying to calm down youths who are stressing out and having breakdowns," Mohamed told The Feed.

"It's absurd because as I'm staring out of my window right now, I'm staring at people calmly walking their dog, while I'm imprisoned in a building staring at a series of police trucks."

Mohamed says he has received almost 50 calls and texts from people asking for an update.

"I have nothing to tell them. I'm just confused," he said.

For many residents ,the first time they heard about the lockdown was during the live press conference announcement by Premier Andrews on Saturday afternoon.

"The Premier said that these are vulnerable people, but the level of policing assumes that they are expecting some type of riot or revolt," he said.

"I don't understand [why the hard lockdown was announced]. The neighbours and the people I've been helping are single parents, people with disabilities, the elderly, young kids, teenagers."

To circulate information, people have been sharing updates on Facebook groups, WhatsApp - and even doorknocking to update elderly neighbours.

"We are trying to find people that can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and Somali and all these other languages because they have no idea what is going on," Mohamed said.

Despite reports there would be food and supply packages sent to the 3,000 residents in the housing estates in North Melbourne and Flemington - Mohamed says they've heard nothing.

The organisers, along with Mohamed, have negotiated with the police officers stationed at the North Melbourne housing commission flats to gather supplies but they've received mixed messages.

"We took it upon ourselves to co-ordinate services and support. We've had a few people being accosted by police within the Flemington estates who have been trying to deliver food," Mohamed said.

'We're not having any more deliveries'

Zainab* was delivering packages of food and supplies in Flemington and North Melbourne. She was trying to give a pack of nappies to Hadia, a mother of five young children, in the Flemington housing estates.

"I had one more box of deliveries for a mum in the building in Flemington," Zainab told The Feed.

A police officer directed her where to park, as residents went into the building. Zainab says the officer later asked her what she was doing at the housing estate. She explained she was there to deliver a package of necessities to a family.

"He said: 'sorry, we're not having any more deliveries tonight'," she recalled.

The conversation began to get heated. Zainab saw Hadia just inside the building. "She was within eyeshot of me," she said.

Hadia remembers seeing Zainab last night with the package.

"And they travelled to the estate, and [the police] didn't even let them come. I was very furious," Haida told The Feed.

"So how come you can't even pick up something downstairs for us? That's wrong. Everybody's being treated like we're in prison."

Zainab alleges the police officer began to swear at her and became more aggressive when she tried to explain again why Hadia needed the supply of nappies.

"He's like: 'I don't care'. He started getting really agitated. And he said I don't care to do this. This is not my problem."

"And then he started getting quite aggressive, started swearing and telling me f**king reverse, f**king reverse get the fuck out of here. You're being annoying now get the fuck out."

Zainab eventually felt she needed to leave, after she said more officers arrived.

Hadia said she was angry over the ordeal. She wanted to buy the nappies herself, but wasn't allowed to after the police came to the estate on Saturday afternoon.

"It's very frustrating because I have a young child who is using nappies, so when I heard about this lockdown, the first thing on my mind was to get a nappy wipe pack," Hadia said.

"We need it. I didn't even have toilet tissue, and all of a sudden they say you can't leave."

'There is great fear about interactions with the police'

A spokesperson for Victoria Police told The Feed they are not in a position to respond to individual enquiries.

"Victoria Police is well equipped to enforce the directions and well prepared to respond to the tightening of restrictions," a spokesperson said.

"These measures are part of our commitment to the health and safety of the community.
This is necessary to prevent further infections, illness, and death from the spread of coronavirus."

In 2013, Victoria Police settled a civil case over the alleged racial profiling of young African Australians. It is affecting how communities in the housing estates are feeling today.

“There are understandable issues with policing around these kinds of communities. There is great fear about interactions with the police,” Mohamed said.

Mohamed says communities in the housing estates in North Melbourne and Flemington have questioned whether the hard lockdown is the best approach.

“Where are the social workers? Where are the health workers? Did they think the best measure is to basically bring hundreds of police that are unable to understand the complexities and the nuance of the communities and people that they interact with,” Mohamed said.

The Victorian government are providing financial assistance to residents, as well as mental health services. 

*Name has been changed