ALLEGATIONS of racism have been levelled against the owners of last year’s NSW liquor store of the year after staff were instructed to keep “coloureds” out of the shop unless they were willing to come in individually and be searched – and to call police if they refused.
Tim Leonard, the owner of the Old Bar Cellars near Taree, on the North Coast, wrote a memo to staff in February outlining new rules for Aboriginal customers: “due to the fact that we have now had three known incidents of shop lifting involving the one coloured girl plus friends who has come in with two or three others coloureds [sic]“.
The memo, which staff were asked to sign, said: “If any group of aboriginals mixed or otherwise comes into the shop you will ask them to leave. (This does not include any customers of a long term basis) Say to them they are not be allowed in [sic] – but can come in individually if they are willing to be searched on their way out.
“If they ask why it is because of a recent spate of shoplifting involving people of their appearance. If they start yelling or otherwise call the Police.”
The memo, which was obtained by the National Indigenous Times, led to the resignation of Paul Hickey, 33, one of four staff at the time.
Mr Hickey said he was “disgusted” by the policy and refused to sign it. He said his hours were cut back the following week and he then resigned, telling Mr Leonard in writing that the policy was “immoral and quite frankly illegal” and “I can no longer continue my association with you”.
Mr Leonard said he used the word “coloureds” because the shoplifter in question was not “a full-blood. Her skin was, whatever you want to call it, chocolate or something”.
But he said he cooled down after “three or four weeks” and now accepts Mr Hickey was correct. “I had a very angry reaction [to the shoplifting] and spoke to staff and gave them that [memo] and we had a meeting afterwards and it wasn’t enforced,” he said.
Now staff were merely asked to accompany suspicious people around the shop, he said.
Mr Leonard issued a qualified apology, saying it was never his intention to be racist towards any group of people in the Old Bar community.
“I realise that the words I used were totally inappropriate. … As a sponsor of the local community where over 2 per cent of our of our net profit goes towards supporting all of the major sporting clubs, schools and various groups and activities in the community, I apologise sincerely to anyone affected by the memo.”
Old Bar Cellars was named the top regional liquor store and liquor store of the year in last year’s NSW Liquor Stores Association awards for excellence.
The association’s chief executive, Terry Mott, said it was not considering stripping Old Bar Cellars of its title because the policy was not pursued. “If it had been, maybe we would have to reconsider it,” he said.
The chief executive of Taree-Purfleet Local Aboriginal Land Council, Glen Rennie, said he had never seen such a blatant example of racism. “I was surprised to see the existence of a document such as that in the public domain, but I’ve got no doubt it happens in other workplaces,” he said.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, Tom Calma, said the memo was possibly a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.
He said anyone who had been refused service because of their race, colour, or national or ethnic origin should contact the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
« Hide it