No more ‘papers, please’: Farewell to the curfew; never bring it back


Of all the restrictions that Melbourne has lived under for the past two years, the curfew has been one of the most controversial, even being the subject of an unsuccessful court challenge.

Regularly asked to provide the reasons for the curfew, Premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged last year it was implemented to stop people moving around.

Essentially, the curfew was a police tool, rather than a health measure. It was the catch-all rule, a blanket edict to prevent people from doing things that we already weren’t allowed to do, like gathering in houses.

Flinders Street Station is lit up during curfew this week.

Flinders Street Station is lit up during curfew this week.Credit:Eddie Jim

Whenever the curfew is questioned, some are quick to point out that there wasn’t much to do outside after dark anyway. But that’s not exactly true.

Some people like to go for a walk or exercise at night, particularly if they have to put young children to bed. Shift workers who sleep during the day may be unable to go to the supermarket before or after work.

But more than that, the curfew simply added another layer of stress and anxiety in a city living under lockdown, with seemingly diminishing returns.

Empty laneways in Melbourne during curfew.

Empty laneways in Melbourne during curfew.Credit:Eddie Jim

The curfew’s effectiveness is hard to quantify but it appears to have helped during the 2020 lockdown, when police enforcement was far more visible and the threat of being caught felt real.

Each day, police revealed how many infringement notices had been handed out to rule breakers (although many fines were left unpaid).

In that case, the heavy use of the law was vindicated when Victoria crushed the second wave and came out of lockdown.

This time around, police have focused their energy on stopping protests against vaccination and lockdowns, rather than dragnet-style tactics like checkpoints.

A few lone people in the CBD this week after curfew.

A few lone people in the CBD this week after curfew.Credit:Eddie Jim

It has led to more people breaking the rules with authorities acknowledging that lockdown fatigue has contributed to higher case numbers. Grand final parties, which would have taken place after curfew, have been identified as a reason for a recent spike.

If you ask people in Melbourne what they’re looking forward to right now, they’ll probably answer with a haircut, or a trip to the pub, or kids returning to school.

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When the curfew is lifted, it won’t have the same symbolic effect as hair piling up on the barbershop floor or beers being poured from the tap.

But stepping outside our homes after dark will be an important psychological marker in making us feel like our city is open again.

May the curfew never return.

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