AUSTRALIA: Racial Discrimination in Alice Hostel Case
DARWIN -- A prominent Sydney-based human rights lawyer will represent a group of Aboriginal women who were allegedly asked to leave a backpacker hostel in Alice Springs because of the colour of their skin.
Sixteen Aboriginal women and children from the community of Yuendumu had travelled to Alice Springs in March to attend classes organised by The Royal Life Saving Society Australia.
After checking in at the Haven Hostel at the weekend they were then asked to leave, with management telling them that other guests felt frightened.
Lawyer George Newhouse, who will take their case to NT Anti-Discrimination commissioner Tony Fitzgerald, yesterday said there was "no excuse" for the hostel´s alleged conduct.
"Nothing I have seen so far either in the media or on the evidence presented to me suggests that this is anything but a clear cut case of racial discrimination," Mr Newhouse said.
"I am hopeful that the outcome will be a better understanding between Aboriginal people and tourism operators in Alice Springs."
Mr Newhouse said he was aware of claims that that sort of practice was common in the desert town.
"If this is the case it needs to be stamped out. It´s absolutely inappropriate to judge someone by the colour of their skin," he said.
When news of the women´s alleged plight became public, NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson said the hostel´s actions were "truly appalling" and he called on the women to front the commission "to get to the bottom of the matter".
Mr Newhouse yesterday said he was impressed by the women and their resolve.
"I think they are the greatest bunch of women," he said.
"They were down in Alice learning life saving techniques so they could be responsible for the safety of children and adults in a local swimming pool.
"They should have been encouraged, rather than treated in the despicable way they were."
Mr Newhouse said the file of statements was expected to be handed to Mr Fitzgerald next week.
The owners of the hostel initially issued a statement saying the group had been asked to leave because the Haven catered for international tourists only.
A second statement said the hostel had never asked the guests to leave.
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Published by: Liv Inger Somby