'I'm a single mother who's locked down in one of the Melbourne towers. Here's what it's like.'

On Friday evening, nine public housing towers were closed in Melbourne, and approximately 3,000 residents of these towers were placed into forced and sudden isolation.

*Sal, a single mother of two who lives in one of the North Melbourne towers that has been shut down shared her experience with Mamamia. She wishes to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. 

As told to Shona Hendley. 

Watch: Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announces public housing lockdown. Post continues below.

I am a single mother with two children. We live in one of the North Melbourne towers and up until the last few days we have enjoyed living where we do.

We have been here for a few years now and have become a part of a strong community with many other residents in the building. 

While our small apartment isn’t much, we have made it our home. Most days we spend a lot of time outside - we go for walks, go the playground on the weekends and enjoy the space where my eldest child can run around.

For us, this is what I thought of first when we were told we couldn’t leave. How would my children get fresh air? How would they feel the sun? How do I tell my children they can’t do these simple things that we always do? 

We had no idea it was coming. Many of us living here were going on about our everyday lives on Friday – at work, out at the shops, doing things around our homes like we always would. 


Then people started talking and texting each other, and the word spread. Not by anyone coming to warn us or speak to us in person, but from the news being announced in the media.  

I was at home looking after my youngest child when a neighbour texted me and said we can’t leave our apartments. I was shocked. That morning I never would have imagined that for the next week at least I would be stuck in my apartment. I didn’t know what to think or what to do.

I had lots of questions but no one to direct them to. I wondered what we had done wrong, why were police coming to make sure we couldn’t leave? 

I didn’t even know anyone in our building had COVID-19, let alone that it was so serious that we could all be trapped inside. 

For some people, it reminds them of a past they don't want to remember, where their freedoms were taken, and their liberties were stripped. For others, like me, it feels like a punishment for something we didn't do. 

Then there are some that barely know enough English to understand properly what is going on because no one has bothered to translate it for them. They are unsure and frightened. 

There are also others in my building who do understand why the restrictions are in place and are happy to support it, although even they still wish they had known it was coming so they could have prepared properly. 

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast where Claire Murphy looks at the public housing towers that are in lockdown. Post continues below.

When I first heard the news, straight away I looked in my fridge and in my cupboard and realised I barely had enough supplies to get me through a couple of days, let alone a week, because we hadn’t been to the grocery store. I had planned to do a shop on the weekend. I was worried, I needed food, I needed nappies, and I wasn’t sure what to do. 


The news reports all said there were people to help us if we needed anything, but I don’t even know how to do that because no one has told us. I have rationed our food and not changed my child’s nappy as much to try and get us through as long as we can. 

My eldest child has seen the police and the people in masks outside the building. He doesn’t understand why they are there or why they need to wear these masks and gloves when none of us have to. He doesn’t understand why we are different to them and to be honest I don’t really either.

Most of us have always done the right thing. We followed social distancing, and all the rules when we were in isolation a couple of months ago. 

We haven’t had parties, or come together as groups. We have mostly stayed in our apartments, washed our hands, and done everything the government has asked of us.

It seems there are different rules for us. Why is it only public housing that has been singled out? Other suburbs have been affected, with more people than who are in our towers, so why it just us who can’t leave? 

I am counting down the days until this is over, and we can just live our normal lives again. 

Shona Hendley, Mother of cats, goats and humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. You can follow her on  Instagram.

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