Some Melbourne tower residents still waiting for supplies including nappies and medication

Margaret Simons
Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Despite Victorian premier Daniel Andrews’s promise of “wrap-around services” for residents locked down in public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne, many are yet to receive essential supplies including nappies and medication.

Staff from St Brendan’s primary school in Flemington were also stopped by police on Tuesday from delivering laptops to students in the flats, along with toiletries and other items.

The school’s principal, Peter Hayes, heard police may have earlier discovered drugs hidden in a laptop delivered by others. Victoria police have not confirmed this, however.

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After being contacted by Guardian Australia, the Victorian health department said it was facilitating the delivery of the school laptops.

“I understand exactly where the police are coming from, but the frustration of the families inside is heightened,” Hayes said on Wednesday.

“They hear on the media that everything is being delivered, and while everyone is doing their best, there is a gap.”

Hayes said school staff had conducted two online video meetings with about 70 locked down families from the St Brendan’s and nearby Holy Rosary primary school communities.

They were told some families did not have nappies despite the health department saying they had been provided. Others were yet to receive medication and more still argued communication from the department was lacking, the principal said.

After a chaotic first three days, quality food is now getting through, but many residents are still waiting to be tested for Covid-19.

The health department has confirmed tower residents can be relocated if, for example, they don’t have enough space to self-isolate.

“If you are unable to safely isolate in your home, alternative accommodation can be arranged,” a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

A huge operation is underway to provide supplies and feed the 3,000 tower residents.

Tents, electricity generators, portable toilets as well as food delivery vans are on site.

The SES, community groups, charities and local government are contributing to the effort alongside the health and justice departments and Victoria police.

A 28-year-old man from Altona North was arrested on Tuesday night as the Australian Muslim Social Services youth organisation – a local volunteer group – tried to deliver groceries to the towers.

Victoria police said the man was subsequently released “pending further inquiries”.

According to young people who saw the incident, a volunteer was wrestled to the ground by police after he alleged one of the officers was suspended and should not be present.

Victoria police said the officer was “absolutely not” suspended and “all present at the scene were moved on … to avoid any further breaches of the peace”.

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Despite some issues, other contributions from community members addressed to specific households have been delivered to the flats without trouble.

Hayes said families in the flats had been deeply upset by Senator Pauline Hanson’s comments earlier this week alleging public housing tenants were drug addicts and alcoholics.

“The negative stuff is really hard for them to take … many of the families live week to week, hand to mouth, and they were locked down without warning,” the principal said.

“Now they are locked inside. The mothers are like mothers anywhere. They put their kids first and will tell you they are OK but you have to get beneath that.”

Andrews has said residents will be released from “hard” lockdown after coronavirus tests have been completed and analysed.

Seventy-five cases of Covid-19 have been detected in the towers so far however the majority of swabs taken are yet to be analysed.

Meanwhile, residents from nearby suburbs have placed flowers on a sports field next to the Flemington estate in a gesture of support.

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