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Victorian Government proposes $5 million settlement for towers’ lockdown

Participating adult residents will receive equal shares.

The Victorian Government has proposed a $5 million settlement over a class-action lawsuit involving the public housing tower lockdown in North Melbourne and Flemington.

During COVID’s second wave, residents of eight of the nine towers were put into lockdown without warning for five days whereas one tower was in lockdown for another nine days.

In March 2021, the plaintiffs Idris Hassan and Hawa Warsame commenced a class action lawsuit against the State of Victoria claiming the government’s actions were unlawful and beyond their powers.

An investigation by the Victorian Ombudsman in 2020 found that the timing of the lockdown was not based on direct health advice and violated Victorian human rights laws.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass recommended that the Victorian Government apologise to the tower’s residents, recognising the immediate detention’s impact on their health and wellbeing.

“Many residents knew nothing of the lockdown or the reason for it when large numbers of police appeared on their estate that afternoon,” Glass said.

“Since March, restrictions on movement both broad and specific have been issued many times in Victoria, but never before or since without warning.”

According to the ABC, one resident involved in the lawsuit, Barry Berih, said there hadn’t been conversations whether the settlement would be accepted. Even until now, Berih is still seeking an apology, which the notice of the proposed settlement did not mention.

“To me, it’s not really that important in terms of the money situation. The main important part is the apology and the community itself,” he said.

If the proposal is accepted by the Supreme Court of Victoria, the towers’ adult residents who participate by 27 June 2023 will receive equal shares of the sum and those under 16-years-old at that time will receive 50 percent of the adult sum.

Photo: Supreme Court of Victoria Front Entrance by Nickbenanh available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not been modified.

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