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  • Lockdowns 'punished' west Sydney

    Author: AAP

Western Sydney residents endured an unequal lockdown imposed by the NSW government during the COVID-19 Delta outbreak, a report has found.

People from Sydney's most multicultural suburbs felt targeted and racially discriminated against, compared to Sydney's affluent eastern suburbs residents who were allowed greater freedoms during the lockdown.

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The 32-page report from the Australian Catholic University and the United Workers Union drew on 22 interviews with essential workers, most of them women, in western Sydney from various Local Government Areas (LGAs).

The workers from four critical sectors - early childhood education and care, home care, manufacturing and warehousing - described how extended lockdowns impacted their mental health and their financial standing.

"Residents of Western Sydney and other LGAs of concern were forced to contend with tougher restrictions on physical mobility and night-time curfews than elsewhere in Sydney," the report said.

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From July to September 2021, people living in 12 LGAs including culturally diverse Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool and Parramatta were subjected to "stricter stay-at-home orders, a night-time curfew and more overt enforcement by (state) government and police authorities".

The report's authors concluded that "punishment rather than social assistance was the norm in Western Sydney".

Interviews with workers revealed how some lost careers while others saw their incomes dwindle as well as being exposed at a higher rate to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Paula, a homecare worker from Parramatta LGA, said "[every] street you [drove] down, there was police. [It] did feel terrible; we had curfews and had to be in by 9 o'clock and couldn't go out".

Around 300 Australian Defence Force personnel were deployed to work with local police, patrolling the streets and door-knocking.

The report also noted how families were financially strained as federal government payments such as JobKeeper and the coronavirus supplement were largely absent during the Delta wave.

Without the option of working remotely, essential workers had to absorb the burden of testing and vaccination mandates in July and August 2021, even though health infrastructures could not meet initial demand, the report said.

"In the event that Australia experiences future pandemics on or above the scale of COVID-19, Western Sydney's workers cannot afford a repeat of this inadequate response from government and big business," the authors said.

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