Between 2nd August 2020 and 8th November 2020, the Victorian Police force diverted significant resources away from fighting crime. Instead, under direction of the Health and Wellbeing Act (2008) their mission had changed; enforce the directives of the Chief Health Officer.
These directives included confinement to home for 23 hours a day, a curfew from 8pm-5am, restrictions on movement beyond 5km of one’s home address, and only four legitimate reasons to be outside: exercise, shopping, care-taking, or seeking medical care. All businesses deemed “non-essential” were closed.
Any other activity required a permit. The permit could be accepted or rejected under the discretion of a police officer.
Soon, citizens raised questions about the enforcement of these directives.
On 6th June, 2020, tens of thousands of Victorians took to the streets to protest aboriginal deaths in custody under the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest went ahead despite being in breach of the CHO directives. Three organisers were fined. Few, if any, arrests were made.
On 7th July, Victoria experienced its second “six-week” Stage 3 Lockdown. It was ramped up to Stage 4 on 5th August.
During this Stage 4 lockdown, disturbing videos surfaced showing heavy-handed policing of the lockdown. The Andrews Government introduced mass surveillance the likes of which this state – let alone this country – had never seen before. This included monitoring social media, surveillance by remote control drone, and the threat of indefinite detention for “potential” scofflaws by ordinary citizens (which was defeated on the floor of Parliament).
Protests which were lawful under Stage 3 for Black Lives Matter, a largely American phenomenon, were now outlawed when the people turned their ire against the State Government. They were met with fierce resistance from the “Public Order Response,” a militarised arm of the Victorian Police.
Hundreds of fines were levied against usually law-abiding citizens; pregnant mothers were arrested in their homes for “inciting” usually lawful protests; officers were shown brutalising the mentally ill; Riot Police stormed a usually tranquil Queen Victoria Market to suppress dissent; they routinely bullied the infirm, sometimes confiscating their phones; one woman was choked by a male officer after she was found to not be wearing a mask.
Countless others were fined and arrested simply for exercising their right to political communication implied by the Australian Constitution.
As a result, actual instances of crime rose. Community trust in policing fell precipitously. There is now a resentment towards police among the community, which may take generations to erase.
It was and still is an appalling infringement of the rights and freedoms of Victorians, supposedly enshrined in our Charter of Human Rights.
Some took challenges to the courts. One case challenging the validity of the curfew was set to be heard in the Supreme Court on 28th September; the Government lifted the curfew on the 27th.
In another case, arguing the CHO directives breached an Australian’s right to political communication, Asst. Commissioner Luke Cornelius reversed his original stance that protests were unlawful on 23rd October.
The Government told the populace these directives were “proportionate and necessary.” However, as we’ve seen, these claims rarely hold water in a court of law.
This website serves as an archive of videos, newspaper articles and media commentary of this dark period in Australian history. It is intended that the content it contains may provide easily accessible information to form the basis of policies, lawsuits, enquiries, commissions or other due process that seeks to bring about a reform to inappropriate use of power by the Victorian Police force.
The contributors to this website are non-partisan and not beholden to any political party or pressure group.
Ultimately, we seek to see a return of rapport between Victoria and their police force once more.
‘The line between good and evil runs through every human heart’ and we have seen that even our beloved boys in blue can be placed in a situation where they feel pressured to follow orders that infringe upon citizens basic human rights.
The Nuremberg trials have taught us that ‘I was following orders’ is not an acceptable defence for violating human rights.
While we condemn the actions of Command, we also feel deep sympathy for the difficult situation that everyday police officers found themselves.
Citizens will need to forgive; Victoria Police will need to reform.
History will never forget the pain, the cost, and the loss of our brutal lockdown. Let us remind ourselves that Australians are young and free, and with your help keeping the memory of this time alive, we shall be once more.