SYDNEY (AFP) - The Australian government said on Friday (March 8) it was looking into claims that a major hotel chain had been directing staff to check Aboriginal guests into poorer-quality rooms.
An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation uncovered a leaked e-mail advising staff at the Ibis Styles Alice Springs Oasis, owned by French hotel group Accor, to move people from "the communities" into one of six designated rooms.
The national broadcaster said the term is used locally to refer to indigenous people living in remote communities outside of Alice Springs, in northern Australia.
An unnamed staff member told the ABC that it had happened hundreds of times since the initiative was handed down last June, where anyone who "appeared Aboriginal" was given the "worse rooms".
Minister for indigenous affairs Nigel Scullion vowed to quickly get to the bottom of the allegations.
"That sort of behaviour from Australian businesses is completely unacceptable," he told reporters.
Mr Scullion warned that Australia's racial discrimination act held "serious compliances and sanctions".
"Let's have a look at the evidence but that sounds very concerning to me," he said.
The ABC arranged two bookings at the Ibis, one with Aboriginal guests and the other non-indigenous.
It found that both were being charged the same amount, but Aboriginal clients were directed to an inferior room, as per the leaked e-mail.
The national broadcaster said the rooms were starkly different, with the Aboriginal group given the dirtier and less well maintained accommodation.
Accor told the ABC it was not aware of any complaints.
"The hotel welcomes and embraces guests from all backgrounds and cultures that reflects their diverse workforce, which includes 31 per cent indigenous employees," the company said in a statement.
Aboriginal Australians make up about 3 per cent of the total national population of 25 million, but remain the country's most disadvantaged community.
In February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted that the government was falling short more than a decade after vowing to "close the gap" between indigenous Australians and the rest of the country.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the unemployment rate for Aboriginal Australians is three to four times higher than the national average, while suicide rate for Aboriginal children is five times higher than for the rest of the population.