A Māori SAS veteran has spoken out after a Perth pub denied him service because he proudly wears facial moko.
Michael Barclay shared his story on Australian television after the incident that saw him rejected because his mataora reportedly breached the establishment’s own rules.
He told A Current Affair that he visited the Hotel Windsor for dinner with his wife but was quickly turned away.
The pair asked for menus before a staff member told Barclay he was not welcome.
“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’.”
Barclay said he attempted to explain the cultural significance of his markings, as other patrons stepped in to try to persuade the staffer to reverse their decision.
“She said, ‘yes, we know about you Kiwis but you still can’t stay. You’ll have to leave’,” Barclay said.
‘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 but dogs were allowed on the premises.”
Barclay, who served with the SAS, said he was embarrassed by his treatment and told A Current Affair that he had served to protect the freedoms he was denied.
“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.
“I’m a law-abiding ex-veteran with no criminal history at all,” Barclay added.
“And you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.”
A Current Affair said it had contacted the pub for comment but was yet to receive a response.
Banned in Brisbane
The refusal is the latest incident that has seen Māori in Australia turned away because of their moko.
Earlier this year, Juanita McNamara said she was left embarrassed and shocked after being denied entry to a bar because of her moko kauae.
She told the Herald she was enjoying a night out with friends in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley in April when three security guards at Finn McCool’s would not let her through the door.
“As I went to give my ID, the female security guard said to me you’re not allowed in because of your face and neck tattoos,” said McNamara.
“I explained to her the moko kauae [is a] taonga, it’s a treasure.”
While attitudes may seem harsh across the ditch, Aotearoa still faces its own issues.
Incidents of racial profiling and tattoo discrimination have been highlighted here in recent years, with social media bringing discrimination to the fore.
‘Don’t fear the moko’
Last year a mother was told to cover up her moko kauae tattoo or leave a playground in Havelock North because she was “scaring the children”.
Hawke’s Bay community leader Heather Te Au-Skipworth, who proudly wears a moko kauae, said she was not surprised by the incident.
“I think the message that needs to be put out in the public is ‘don’t fear the moko, don’t fear Māori, and don’t fear what we have to offer,” Te Au-Skipworth said.
Regional councillor Stacey Te Pohue Rose said he was racially abused on the street five minutes after receiving his tā moko facial tattoo.
Up until September 2019, Air New Zealand had a policy banning tā moko on staff despite displaying koru designs on its uniforms and planes.