Social housing estate forced into lockdown

September 2, 2021
Common Ground has been placed into a hard lockdown. Inset: Mission Australia's note to residents. Photo: Rachel Evans

Common Ground, a social housing estate run by Mission Australia (MA) in inner-city Camperdown, was put into hard lockdown on September 2 after four tenants tested positive to COVID-19. Residents were given no warning and are not allowed to leave their homes for 14 days.

Common Ground is home to 130 people and is located opposite the Johanna O'Dea public housing towers on Pyrmont Bridge Road.

Robin, a resident at Common Ground for eight years, told Green Left that the residents had “no forewarning, no phone call and no opportunity to talk to our neighbours about it”.

They said there had been a medical emergency in the building the night before.

“I came home about 9.30pm and saw 15 police cars, an ambulance and a lot of medical staff around the O’Dea building. I woke up at 6am and saw police in the car park. I knew we were in lockdown, but there was no announcement, no megaphone, no phone call from Mission Australia.”

The situation only worsened as the morning went on.

“I got a knock at my door at 11am, but it was someone dressed in full PPE and I don’t answer to people I don’t know.

“I was afraid that if I refused a test, something horrible might happen. Safety is really important to me.

“I checked a little later and there was a note from Mission Australia and NSW Health. NSW Health said that four residents in Common Ground had tested positive for COVID-19 and that we had to isolate for 14 days and not leave unless directed by medical staff.

“The Mission Australia note said they understood this may be upsetting to us, but we’d be supplied with food and support, [and] a tenant care team will organise delivery and hygiene packs.”

Robin said proper notice and support should have been provided immediately so that residents were not left in the dark and anxious. “This is a community of people in lower socio-economic backgrounds: Indigenous people, refugees, queers, people with mental health issues. 

“How would they feel about a 14-day lockdown with no notice? I want everyone at Common Ground to be able to talk to each other. I want a community online forum of just residents so we can talk this through.

“Incompetence and disrespect has been shown by Mission Australia; we need to be able to talk to each other.”

NSW Health confirmed in an email to Green Left that those people who tested positive to COVID-19 had been transferred to hospital or Special Health Accomodation and that all remaining residents “have been determined to be close contacts and are required to isolate for 14 days”.

Mission Australia said it “supports NSW Health’s decision to lockdown the 104-unit facility”, adding that it had set up pop-up vaccination clinics at Common Ground on July 14 and August 4 and “more than a third of tenants and the majority of staff” accessed vaccinations at these clinics. 

Robin said that over the past three months of lockdown in Sydney, Common Ground and Joanne O’Dea residents had experienced much more police harassment. 

“Police [were] coming through our floors, parking in the car park. I know there have been raids in the O’Dea building. Really, it has been like a police state around here.”

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