An Indigenous woman and her children were refused entry to a budget store in Darwin, NT, on Tuesday because some of her children were shoeless, says an eyewitness.
By
Andrea Booth

22 Sep 2015 - 3:21 PM  UPDATED 22 Sep 2015 - 4:12 PM

An Indigenous woman and her children, aged between eight and 10 years, attempted to enter discount retail store Kmart in Darwin, Northern Territory, at around midday on Tuesday when they were stopped by a staff member, eyewitness Normie Grogan told NITV.

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Mr Grogan said the family was stopped because some of the mother’s children were not wearing shoes.

"I saw one of the ladies that checks the bags, you know, as you go in, and she stopped an Aboriginal lady. This lady was middle-aged and she had about four or five kids with her," he told NITV.

"All this awareness about respect, culture, two-way street, it's not getting through."

Mr Grogan said that two of the children had shoes on and three did not. "The Kmart lady walked straight to her and said, 'excuse me, you’re not allowed in without shoes.'

"I thought, 'What?’ What, what sort of policy is that?'

"The mother said, 'What do you mean?', and the lady at the counter says, 'you're not allowed in here, the kids have to have shoes."

Mr Grogan said that the mother explained to the middle-aged female staff member that she was going to enter the store to buy her children shoes, and that staff member replied, "OK, I'll let you in only if you're going to buy those shoes."

"Don't get on to people and humiliate them in the main entrance when everybody's walking past, listening, and this is a traditional Aboriginal woman."

Mr Grogan said he did not see signage that communicated any policy that prohibited people who were not wearing shoes from entering, nor an occupational health and safety explanation, in the vicinity of the store.

"I thought, 'This is wrong'," he said. 

"This is not the Darwin that I live in."

Mr Grogan said that he was "ropable" about the way the incident unfolded. "All this awareness about respect, culture, two-way street, it's not getting through."

He said that the request for the children to wear shoes would be more reasonable if the staff member had spoken privately with the family and explained the policy behind her request.

"Don't get on to people and humiliate them in the main entrance when everybody's walking past, listening, and this is a traditional Aboriginal woman."

"Our team at Kmart Casuarina treat all customers with respect, care and courtesy and always have their safety front of mind at all times."

Kmart in Darwin said it had treated the family with respect. "Our team at Kmart Casuarina treat all customers with respect, care and courtesy and always have their safety front of mind at all times," a spokesperson told NITV.

"The customer and family were not refused entry to the store." 

A spokesperson from the GPT Group which owns Casuarina Square, the shopping centre in which Kmart is located, said it was concerned about the safety of its customers.

"The safety of our customers is of paramount importance to GPT and Casuarina Square," the spokesperson said.

"Customers must comply with the ‘Conditions of Entry’ which are in place to ensure the safety of all customers whilst visiting our centres.

"These 'Conditions of Entry' are displayed on signage at all main entrances to Casuarina Square."