In the last few days, public outrage has erupted over the Victoria Police’s implementation of an immediate lockdown of public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne. Residents were not warned as more than 500 police officers circled the towers over the weekend.
Executive Director of the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health in Melbourne, Dr Adele Murdolo, said in a statement that her organisation is “extremely concerned” about the health and wellbeing of migrant communities, “particularly migrant women in the 11 ‘hot zone’ suburbs under Stage 3 restrictions.”
In her statement, which was published on the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health website, Dr Murdolo described the importance of giving a platform to migrant women and allowing their perspectives to influence provisional decisions.
The statement’s now been signed and supported by 16 organisations
“Women community leaders have been overlooked,” she said. “It is time to listen to migrant women about their experiences and needs to ensure that they can access specific support throughout this crisis. Migrant women’s leadership is crucial to an effective, community-based, preventative response to the pandemic.”
Dr Murdolo runs the Not-For-Profit organisation (MCWH) that aims to put migrant women’s health in migrant women’s hands. The organisation receives funding from the Department of Health and Victorian Government. She acknowledged the disproportionate levels by which migrant women have been affected by the pandemic, with job losses, higher levels of domestic duties and family support work.
“They are at higher risk of family violence and social isolation, yet are less likely to have access to the information, support and services they need,” she said.
Dr Murdolo also believes that multilingual information and support for the demographic has been “manifestly inadequate.”
The MCWH believes trained peer health educators are required to engage communities with “tailored, accurate and multilingual information and support.”
“This type of support has never been more important,” Dr Murdolo said.
She acknowledged that her state government has engaged multicultural community leaders over the last month, but believes that is not enough.
“We are calling on the Victorian Government to meet with, and listen to, migrant women and their representative organisations, and to recognise their central role in multicultural community leadership.”
“Migrant women’s organisations should be supported to reach out to migrant women who live in the designated ‘hot zones’ and high-density public housing across Victoria with multilingual information, support and services and to play a central role in strengthening the community response to COVID-19.”
The Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission has published a factsheet in translations including Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Somali and Vietnamese for residents to understand their rights.
Medecins sans Frontieres’ Humanitarian Advisor on Forced Migration Reem Mussa, said the lockdowns over the weekend were “disproportionate and extreme” measures, and believes the more than 3000 residents were “publicly humiliated and dehumanised”.
“The State Government should be focused on implementing measures that protect residents, rather than treating them like criminals,” she said in a statement on the Medecins sans Frontieres’ website.
“Simple, common-sense measures like improving regular deep cleaning of communal areas, sanitation points throughout the building, providing masks, active health promotion and community engagement, sharing timely information with residents on new cases in their residence, setting up testing points close to public housing to increase accessibility.”