10 March 2019

An undercover investigation by the ABC has revealed an Alice Springs hotel has a policy of segregating Indigenous guests in inferior rooms: “Undercover recordings of the Aboriginal guests checking in captured the group being assigned to room 86, which was one of the community rooms referred to in the leaked email. … Inside room 86, the ABC found stained sheets and towels, as well as clothing belonging to former guests. There was broken glass and rubbish in the patio area, dried liquids on the windows and walls, a stale smell in the air and exposed wires around the skirting of the room. The room assigned to the non-Aboriginal group had none of the issues that were found in room 86.” Although the claims were first raised by a whistleblower, the Racial Discrimination Commission said it was powerless to act unless a complaint was made by a guest. This strict requirement for legal standing is often a barrier in social justice litigation, but it can be changed by statute if governments are serious about tackling the issues — for instance, by giving relevant community organisations the right to make a claim on behalf of a hypothetical complainant.