The lockdown of nine towers in Melbourne due to Covid-19 breached human rights laws, an ombudsman has found.
About 3,000 people under police guard were confined to their housing unit from 4 July for up to two weeks, after a state government order.
The residents were given no notice, meaning many people were left without food or medicine, the ombudsman found.
The Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass called on the government to apologise to residents for the “harm and distress caused by the immediacy of their lockdown”.
The Victorian government denies that the detention broke human rights laws.
Housing Minister Richard Wynne rejected that recommendation, saying: “We make no apology for saving people’s lives.”
The ombudsman has no legal power but is the official investigator into government complaints.
The sudden lockdown was announced after a cluster of about two dozen infections were found in the towers.
The snap imposition of the lockdown was a decision made by the state government and not based on health advice, the report found.
Ms. Glass said that the rushed lockdown was “not compatible with the residents’ human rights, including the right to inhumane treatment when deprived of liberty” and appeared to contravene Victoria’s human rights charter.
Just days after the tower was placed under lockdown, the entire city of Melbourne was ordered into lockdown to combat the wider outbreak which was fuelling over 100 cases per day.
The city-wide lockdown began on 9 July and lasted 112 days. For most of this time, residents faced a nightly curfew and stay-at-home orders