A motel manager rents out a room to two people -- one black and one white -- but backs off when four people turn up to occupy the room. That's racism?
A Sunshine Coast motel is at the centre of a race row after being accused of refusing to allow a black couple who had booked accommodation to stay the night. Beenleigh couple Trevor Johnson and Colleen Malone, both 28, have lodged a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission claiming the motel refused to honour their booking because of their race. The couple, who are of Aboriginal and Pacific Islander descent, claim the motel manager told them: "I don't have to put up with people like you."
Ms Malone said the experience had demoralised them and cost them their dignity in front of their friends, who they had been visiting. "I felt so small. I know it was because I was dark," Mr Johnson said. Ms Malone said she was with a white girlfriend when she went into the motel to book a room in Mr Johnson's name. The motel manager, who cannot be named, accepted a $110 deposit.
But when Ms Malone was joined by Mr Johnson and her friend's partner, the four were refused entry to the room. Mr Johnson claims the manager threatened to phone the police if they did not leave and refused to refund their deposit. "I said to her I was going to call the police, instead. They were dumbfounded when they arrived," he said. "The police advised us she wasn't going to give our money back. We advised her we were going to take her to court."
Ms Malone said they had since been offered $1000 by the manager to "go away" but they refused the money because what they really wanted was an apology. Mr Johnson said he had contacted a lawyer and intended to pursue the matter.
In a letter to the commission, the manager confirmed she had accepted a booking for the couple but claimed she had asked only "the extra people" to leave. "At no stage did I ask all to leave, and as the four chose to leave, that is the decision they made," she said.
"I did not see any reason to refund money as most nights of the year are busy with us, and particularly weekends." The manager said she and her husband had been in the industry as owners and managers for 16 years and could not have survived with "any discriminatory inclination". She said she was offended by the accusations.
The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 28, 2006
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