A Perth pub has allegedly turned away a Maori war veteran, refusing to serve him over his traditional facial tattoos.
Michael Barclay told A Current Affair on Tuesday he had visited the Windsor Hotel in the city’s south for dinner with his wife.
“We asked if we could look at the menus … and thought we would order,” he told host Ally Langdon.
“It was at that stage that the bar person then turned around and said, ‘sorry, I can’t serve you’, and I said, ‘why is that?’, and she said, ‘because you have facial tattoos’.”
The traditional method of tattooing practised by Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand, is called Ta moko.
Maori men traditionally receive a facial tattoo known as Mataora, a symbol of nobility, while women receive tattoos on their lips and chin called Moko kauae, representative of their abilities and status within their community.
After explaining the cultural significance of his tattoos to the bar person, who later identified herself as the venue manager, Mr Barclay was still refused service.
Nearby patrons who were also “taken aback” tried to help convince the staff member to let the couple order food, Mr Barclay said.
“She said, ‘yes, we know about you Kiwis, but you still can’t stay, you’ll have to leave’.
“So we left, there was nothing we saw stating we couldn’t enter the pub because of facial tattoos, and it wasn’t until later that we had a look on the website and were aghast to find … that you couldn’t enter with facial tattoos, however, dogs were allowed on the premises.”
Mr Barclay said he was “flabbergasted” and “embarrassed” by the incident, particularly after he had taken the time to explain the cultural significance of his Mataora.
“I served in the military … for the right to be able to walk down the street, to walk into a hotel or restaurant and not be hassled for who you are,” he said.
Mr Barclay said he was now considering taking the incident to the Human Rights Commission.
“This is not an isolated case, I know of other Maori who have had their Mataoras questioned,” he said.
“There’s a lot of Maori out there who are taking on board their right to wear Mataora and Moko kauae, and they should be allowed to conduct themselves in the way they see fit as long as they’re not hurting anyone and (behaving) in a socially acceptable way.
“I’m a law abiding ex-veteran with no criminal history at all … and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.”