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Hotel staff guilty of race discrimination

District Court Judge Susanne Cole has upheld a complaint of racial discrimination against the Ceduna Community Hotel.

In a decision delivered in the Equal Opportunity Tribunal on 15 December, Judge Cole found the hotel had discriminated against Joylene Haynes because of her race. Judge Cole ordered the hotel to pay Ms Haynes $3000 in compensation.

Ms Haynes, an Aboriginal elder, was refused service by the hotel’s drive-through bottle shop attendant in November 2009. The incident occurred two weeks after new hotel licence conditions came into force that didn’t allow alcohol into Yalata.

Judge Cole accepted that the decision to refuse Ms Haynes was motivated by ensuring the hotel complied with new laws. But Judge Cole found the attendant did not have reasonable grounds to assume Ms Haynes was from Yalata, and didn’t make any further enquiries to establish this.

Judge Cole said the attendant “made a series of unfounded assumptions” and some were based on beliefs he had about Aboriginal people.

The Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, Anne Burgess, said: “This judgement shows the risks that people take when they make assumptions based on stereotypes.

“Ms Haynes said she had felt ‘stepped on’ and ‘squashed’ by the experience. It is very unfair, and can be against the law, for people to refuse services based on judgements made about race.”

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