Woman denied entry to Brisbane nightclub due to culturally significant tattoo

·3-min read

A 23-year-old woman is calling for change after she was denied entry to a Brisbane nightclub because of her culturally significant tattoos.

Moale James, a 23-year-old Papuan Australian, was out celebrating her partner's birthday over the weekend in Brisbane when she was denied entry to the venue in Fortitude Valley.

Speaking to the ABC, Ms James admitted she was waiting for something like this to happen and said she had been subject to discrimination before due to the markings.

"He looks at my licence, then he looks at me and he says, 'I can't let you in because of your face,'" she said.

"And I paused because I've actually been anticipating for this to happen."

The facial tattoos on her face, known as reva reva, were to mark her graduation from university and she explained to the ABC the marks "signify a different moment in my life".

She also said the marks on her face were handed down through generations — her great-grandmother had the same marks.

Moale James was refused entry to a nightclub in Brisbane due to her culturally significant facial tattoo. Source: ABC
Moale James was refused entry to a nightclub in Brisbane due to her culturally significant facial tattoo. Source: ABC

"I wear the marks of my ancestors and the stories. They hold great spiritual and ancestral value to me and my community," she said.

Despite trying to explain her tattoos to the security guard, Ms James was still denied entry to the nightclub, Hey Chica!, the ABC reported.

Julia Mage'au Gray, a Papuan Australian artist, did Ms James' tattoo and she told the ABC the decision to deny Ms James entry to the nightclub was "backwards".

After being excluded from the nightclub, Ms James posted about it on social media, where she called on the institution to educate its staff.

"Giving you some time to respond, but I’m preparing a response to the discriminatory and racist behaviour I experienced last night. Time to answer," Ms James said on Facebook.

She said in the comments of her post she went to other nightclubs in the area and had no problem getting in elsewhere.

Ms James acknowledged the security guard was following policy when she spoke to the ABC, saying this then "comes back on the venue".

Moale James hopes by speaking out people will change their point of view. Source: Moale James/ABC
Moale James hopes by speaking out people will change their point of view. Source: Moale James/ABC

Venue won't budge on entry requirements

She did get a response from Hey Chica! on social media, where the venue thanked Ms James for sharing her experience and her understanding that the staff were "following procedure".

The club went on to say there is a blanket policy that prohibits head and face tattoos and the club will "continue to enforce this under the Liquor Act".

"No face, neck or hand tattoos," Hey Chica! says on its website.

"Entry is at the discretion of the door host or management, dress code may vary for special events."

Ms James hopes by her sharing her story, people have it in their hearts to "maybe change their mind".

"It would be nice if the venue reviewed their policy," she told ABC News.

"Every venue in Fortitude Valley has the same liquor act but they decide their own policies."

Yahoo News Australia has contacted the venue in question for comment.

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