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#freethe9blocks #Melbourne: Voices from the Blocks say institutional red tape suffocating community volunteering efforts

Melbourne. Australia. Residents have watched as volunteers have tirelessly worked to navigate departmental and emergency service work. These volunteers include the families of residents locked inside their homes in North Melbourne, Flemington and Kensington.

Submitted to Enough 14.

Since Saturday, community members have been in direct contact with residents who were in desperate need of food and medicine. Many unable to get through to the designated DHHS hotline (1800 961 054).

These families could not afford to wait around hungry and risk their health while the government implemented policy on the fly, four months into a global pandemic.

“These are literally our family members, our friends. Volunteers are stepping up and filling gaps as they are hearing directly from residents of the epic failures of government.”

Tigist Kebede, counselor + community member

“On the ground, police officers outnumber all of the volunteers, departmental workers, services and medical staff combined. They have the largest physical presence and present the greatest risk to community, volunteers and residents.”

Tigist Kebede, counselor + community member

A public health response should include community members, health workers and relevant services that already work with and understand the community, not police.

This is especially pertinent given the history of over-policing in the Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne areas, where in 2013 police had to settle a high profile racial discrimination case.

This legacy of over-policing and discrimination has resulted in some distressing scenes of police taking a heavy handed approach to a community who have been left to pick up the pieces caused by the Victorian Government’s negligence and mismanagement.

“Volunteers are exposing themselves to police brutality in order to provide basic essential medical and food services for residents.”

Tigist Kebede

This is a public health issue which should be responded to by health-care workers and community services.This is not an issue about crime or public order, and as such it should not be treated as one.


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