Sunday, December 16, 2007
Newcastle, Australia Pub Fined $90,000 For Refusing Entry To Six Aborigines, Including Newcastle Knights Rugger Brett Grogan, In 2004
An Australian tribune has fined the former operator of a Newcastle pub $90,000 for refusing to allow six aborigines entry back in May 2004. Full story published December 16th, 2007 in the Daily Telegraph. Supplemental report filed on the Stuff.co.nz website.
The New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal ordered First Rate Leisure, which formerly operated the pub, and Knightland Home Security, which employed the bouncers, to pay $15,000 to each person after finding they were discriminated against because of their race. A total of six aboriginal men, including former Newcastle Knights rugby hero Brett Grogan (pictured above left) and his cousin Dr. Tony Grogan, were refused entry to the Sydney Junction Hotel at Hamilton in New South Wales, near Sydney.
Acording to testimony delivered to the tribunal, there had been a build-up of tension at the pub on a previous night (May 14th, 2004) that culminated in a brawl involving drunken aboriginal men who smashed a window and glass doors after being thrown out. As a result, the night manager, Joshua Tout, who is no longer connected with the pub, then instructed security guards Marguerite Hall and Brett McLean to refuse entry to aboriginal people the following night. While Ms Hall said she was told the order came from former licensee Hugh Halpin, the tribunal found Mr Tout made the decision.
The six aborigines had spent the evening playing cards and watching a film when they went out for a drink in the early hours of May 16th, 2004. All were dressed appropriately, unaffected by alcohol and were not known to be troublemakers. But Mr Grogan said he was stopped by the doorman who told him: "You're not going to like it but your kind aren't allowed in". When he protested, he was told: "Look, don't get angry but we're not allowing aborigines in tonight".
However, Brett Grogan, now a New South Wales Police Force Aboriginal liaison officer, and who originally pressed the complaint, isn't completely happy with the decision. One reason he cited for pressing the complaint is because he believes there's a "lack of education". He also sought to require the then-pub operator to undergo "cultural awareness training" (Soviet-style re-education). He plans to meet his lawyers to find out what more can be done.
Commentary: The ban, while discriminatory, was understandable considering the pub had experienced problems with alcohol-fueled Abos just the night before. And, like so many indigenous people worldwide, Abos have shown difficulty in handling their "firewater". It is widely believed that indigenous people worldwide have genetic difficulties in properly metabolizing alcohol, although this premise has become increasingly disputed. In June 2007, the Australian Federal government imposed a ban on the possession of alcohol and porn in some aboriginal communities in Northern Territory because of rampant child abuse amongst the Abos.
The problems with alcohol are undoubtedly responsible in part for the disproportionate crime rate amongst Abos. According to official 2007 Australian government statistics, 24% of all prisoners are "Indigenous" (defined as either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders). However, Indigenous people comprise only 2.4% of the total Australian population of just over 21.1 million.
Abos who attempt to become fully Australian are accepted by the mainstream society in general, though. The case of Evonne Goolagong is one of the best examples. Because of her success on the international tennis circuit, she was regarded as a national hero. Abos can make a go of it in Australia - but they've got to put behind them the worst aspects of Abo culture and become fully Australian. Otherwise, there must be separation.