A backpacker hostel in Alice Springs faces possible legal action after allegedly evicting a group of Aboriginal people because of their race.
The 16 women and children had travelled 120 miles from the desert community of Yuendumu. Six were to train as lifeguards for their town's new swimming pool but soon after arriving at the Haven Backpacker Resort they were all asked to leave because other guests were scared of them.
"The manager came out and told me that we weren't suitable to stay there... I felt like I wanted to cry because it made me feel like I wasn't an Australian," said Bethany Langdon, one of the ousted guests.
The action was condemned by Australia's Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, and the Northern Territory's Chief Minister, Paul Henderson. He urged the women to lodge a formal complaint.
The resort's management issued a statement yesterday saying it catered for "international backpacking tourists, which this group was not". It claimed it had sought alternative accommodation and offered to pay for the first night, but later denied asking the guests to leave. The hostel also said it had received a number of complaints about them.
The booking was made by the Royal Life Saving Society, which has been working with indigenous communities. Its chief executive, Rob Bradley, who was with the group, corroborated the women's account. "It was purely, in my view, a racist action that defies belief," Mr Bradley told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The group are considering legal action, and demanding an apology. Ms Macklin said: "It is abominable in Australia today to imagine that this sort of racism is taking place."