Racism is alive and well in Australia
Despite the current media and online outrage, I am not surprised that a month after the National Apology to the Stolen Generations we are hearing reports of racism against Aboriginal people in Central Australia. Appalled and outraged, but not surprised.
A group of young women and children were asked to leave an Alice Springs backpacker hostel because they are Aboriginal – within a short while of their checking in and taking their luggage to their rooms. The group of young women leaders from the Central Australian Aboriginal community of Yeundumu had been brought to Alice Springs by the Royal Lifesaving Society, who had booked the accommodation for them.
According to ABC news online:
The group included several young mothers and a three-month-old baby. Most were young leaders, chosen specially for their standing in the Yuendumu community.
The resort manager told Bethany Langdon from the Yuendumu Young Leaders program the group would have to leave.
“The manager came out and told me that we weren’t suitable to stay there,” she told ABC1’s Lateline program.
“They said, because you’re Aboriginal, other tourists were making complaints that they were scared of us.
“I felt like I wanted to cry, because it made me feel like I wasn’t an Australian.”
Ms Langdon says it is her first experience of overt racism.
"It's a disgrace against Aboriginal people, especially when an Aboriginal women comes into town trying to be a role model to their community and get looked up to by elder people and younger people from their community and other communities," she said.
The Royal Lifesaving Society was obviously unaware that certain hostels and hotels in Alice Springs have racist policies of not allowing Aboriginal people to book and stay with them, or that this hostel – Haven Backpackers Resort – was one of them. Judging from what I've heard from people who know Alice, this racist practice is common.
The Hostel's manager disputed that they were asked to leave because they were Aboriginal, denied such a policy exists, and claimed that the reason was that other guests at the hostel had made complaints about the Aboriginal women, and that the hostel is intended for international guests. The manager also claimed that the women left of their own accord, and that the hostel arranged alternative accommodation for the women.
Now a former employee of that hostel has reported to the press her first hand knowledge of the hostel's racist policy of denying bookings and refusing accommodation to Aboriginal people.
The Royal Lifesaving Society had brought the group of young leaders to Alice Springs to learn life saving so that they can return to their community and act as life guards when their new swimming pool opens. Despite initial concerns that this experience would tarnish and undermine the Society's efforts to work with local Aboriginal communities, the picture above suggests that the woman are persevering with their lifesaving training – clearly a strong indication of their leadership qualities!
Apparently, the hostel is now facing lawsuit after telling the women to leave. It would be just as important for a complaint be taken to the Anti Discrimination Commision by the women against the hostel. Hopefully, this will open the big can of racist worms that is the tourism industry in Central Australia. And the Northern Territory overall, and Australia more widely.
Tigtog and Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town have led the charge in reporting this matter in the bloggerspere, and joined in the call for a boycott of the racist hostel, and for bloggers to help publicise this issue and the boycott online. In that spirit, I'm reproducing here this statement from them, which, it is suggested, is also intended to screw with the hostel in question's google search rankings:
Ethical tourists please avoid the Haven Backpacker Resort on Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs: it is a racist establishment, please don’t support it by staying there.
If it is true that this instance is just the tip of the iceberg, and that this practice is widespread in the Northern Territory tourism industry, and in Australia overall, then this should be only the start of a campaign to take the tourism industry to account for the way it capitalises on the appeal of Aboriginal culture and heritage to make its money, but gets away with treating Aboriginal people this way. The truth is, outrage that this should actually happen in 'muticultural, post-apology Australia' not withstanding, the racism experienced by Aboriginal people is very real, and quite widespread.
The apology was never meant to be a panacea. It is a first step. How we deal with the dirty reality of Aboriginal people being denied services and discriminated against will be the mark of this supposed new chapter that Kevin Rudd proclaimed in his apology speech (see the Update in that link, which is to my earlier post on the apology).
And while we're at it, let's remember the whole gamut of racism that Aboriginal people experience in the receipt of services – whether in accommodation, travel, or hospitality, where small minded people discriminate against Aboriginal people because they fear and loath them, or in in the provision of essential health, emergency, communication and other services, and the provision of education, infrastructure and employment, something governments are elected to do, but have consistently failed to do so. As we aim to make private enterprises accountable for their racism, so must we make our governments.
[Image source: it's an SMH pic, which I also found via Hoyden About Town (thanks!)]