SYDNEY (AFP) – The Australian government said yesterday it was looking into claims that a major hotel chain had been directing staff to check Aboriginal guests into poorer-quality rooms.
An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) uncovered a leaked email advising staff at the Ibis Styles Alice Springs Oasis, owned by French hotel group Accor, to move into one of six designated rooms people from “the communities”.
The national broadcaster said the term is used locally to refer to indigenous people living in remote communities outside of Alice Springs, in northern Australia.
An unnamed staff member told the ABC it had happened hundreds of times since the initiative was handed down last June, where anyone who “appeared Aboriginal” was given the “worse rooms”.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion vowed to get quickly get “to the bottom” of the allegations.
“That sort of behaviour from Australian businesses is completely unacceptable,” he told reporters.
Scullion warned Australia’s racial discrimination act held “serious compliances and sanctions”.
“Let’s have a look at the evidence but that sounds very concerning to me.”
The ABC arranged two bookings at the Ibis, one with Aboriginal guests and the other non-indigenous.
It found that both were being charged the same amount, but Aboriginal clients were directed to an inferior room, as per the leaked email.
The national broadcaster said the rooms were starkly different, with the Aboriginal group given the dirtier and less well maintained accommodation.
Accor told the ABC it was not aware of any complaints.
“The hotel welcomes and embraces guests from all backgrounds and cultures that reflects their diverse workforce, which includes 31 per cent indigenous employees,” the company said in a statement.
Aboriginal Australians make up about three per cent of the total national population of 25 million, and remain the country’s most disadvantaged community.
In February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted that the government was falling short more than a decade after vowing to “close the gap” between indigenous Australians and the rest of the country.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the unemployment rate for Aboriginal Australians is three to four times higher than the national average, while suicide rates for Aboriginal children are five times higher than for the rest of the population.