Western Sydney residents feel ‘scapegoat’ as police vow to crack down on Covid | Sydney
western Sydney Residents say they are “scapegoats” as NSW police announce a major compliance crackdown, including on horse riding officers, and health authorities struggle to contain the city’s growing Covid-19 outbreak.
Prime Minister of New South Wales, Gladys BerejiklianOn Thursday, he apologized for identifying three council areas in western Sydney for an apparent breach of health orders as locals claimed they were “unfairly described as the reason for the extension of the lockdown”.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant indicated that stricter restrictions could be considered for the three council areas.
Police on Thursday announced a “crackdown” on lockdown rules in southwest Sydney, with more than 100 additional officers deployed to patrol the area from Friday, including mounted police.
Cumberland City Councilman Kun Huang argued that the police operation was harsher in the western suburbs than in the wealthier parts of Sydney.
“How does one rule apply to the northern suburbs and eastern suburbs, and another rule to western Sydney?” He said.
But a NSW Police spokesperson said all suburbs were treated equally.
They said: “Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon made it clear during the press conference that this is no different from previous operations where there were a large number of cases.”
“The mounted unit has already been deployed to Bondi Beach and North Shores during the pandemic.”
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said people in the Fairfield and Canterbury-Bankstown areas and Liverpool local government need to respond better to public health orders and limit their movements.
“Can I say to the communities in those areas, a lot of them have a similar background to me, please don’t mix with family,” Berejiklian said. “Can I tell everyone, don’t mix with family, don’t think it’s okay to visit your cousins or have an overnight.”
Locals told Guardian Australia they felt as if they were being made a “scapegoat” after the outbreak began in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Bashar Karim, a business owner, said Berejiklian’s comments were “incredible” and that his community was doing its part to help combat the growing outbreak.
“West Sydney has been doing the right thing and has always been doing the right thing in relation to the pandemic,” he said.
“We’re struggling enough, and now we’re being put at the forefront of this outbreak, scapegoating where, realistically, it was the eastern suburbs that started all of this.”
Karim, one of the owners of the Culinary Group, which runs a cooking school, cafe and bakery, said residents in southwest Sydney should be “praised” for doing the right thing.
“It appears that these areas are being categorized as a reason to extend the closure. And it is certainly unfair.”
The three LGA regions are some of the most diverse in Sydney, with a 2016 census indicating that 65.9% of Canterbury-Bankstown residents and more than 75% of Fairfield residents speak a language other than English at home. Over 78% of Fairfield residents and 65.7% of Canterbury Bankstown residents had both parents abroad.
Asmaa Fahmy, a Bankstown resident, said she had not seen anyone violating public health orders in her area, and was baffled when she heard it had been identified.
“I feel like these three LGA are being targeted,” she said. “I saw the police parade about fining people in Bankstown at the press conference, but when I’m on social media and I see people in other suburbs, where people are strolling and out and sitting together, I see some discrimination towards these LGAs.
“Making people who live in these localities feel guilty about the way they handled the outbreak is not easy for anyone. I don’t think that’s fair.
“If you’re going to send a message, it has to be a message to make sure everyone is following orders, no matter where they are from in Sydney.”
Berejiklian on Thursday apologized for the “offence” of her comments, saying it was not intended. But the prime minister said she did not want to “beat the bush”.
“When I say it this way, I don’t mean to cause any offense. I just need to get the information,” she told reporters.
“Our words come from care and compassion. Our words come from wanting us all to get out of this as quickly as possible.”
Speaking before the police announcement on Thursday, Jehad Deeb, a Labor Member of Parliament from Lakemba state, told The Guardian Australia his community feels they are treated differently.
“They feel like they have been treated unfairly, that outbreaks in their suburbs have been highlighted, while other suburbs have been congratulated for the work they have been doing,” he said.
“People are wearing their masks, less home visits, and I don’t see large groups of people congregating. They’re doing it the best they can. Life isn’t normal, you can see that. The vast majority are following the rules.”
“The [premier’s] The language is not phrased in the positive way it could have been.
I think she was trying to encourage people, but I think the messages came wrong. “
Chant had previously said the government had not “effectively communicated” the risks of the outbreak to all communities.
NSW Health said in a statement it had been working with multicultural groups throughout the pandemic and had provided information in 57 languages.
But Huang said the work was not enough.
He has been advocating for NSW Health to improve their messaging to diverse communities since the outbreak in Birala in January. Until now, he had to resort to forming groups on social media and informing the community himself.
“I don’t think they have improved much since the Birala block. At the moment, most of the information is still in English,” Huang said.
“Even my parents won’t be able to get the latest information unless I contact them. And they are not uneducated, that is not how they get their information.
They will not go to the health website every day for the latest update. They won’t watch press conferences every day.”
It’s disappointing, Huang said, that the government has not put in place a better communication strategy – and that puts vulnerable people at risk.