An Australian hotel has been exposed for giving inferior rooms to Aboriginal guests, with an policy that has been described as racial segregation.
In an investigation by the ABC, it was discovered that the Ibis Styles Alice Springs Oasis, in the Northern Territory, had a secret policy which deemed five rooms in the hotel as "community rooms".
An email from June 2018, which was leaked to the network's Background Briefing radio show, described this policy.
"Hi team," it began. "Just to keep everyone in the loop we are now only putting hospital linen into rooms 85 to 90. These rooms are to be referred to as community rooms and we will try to limit them to just that, those coming from the communities.
"Reception ladies, please use a touch of initiative and allocate accordingly on arrival."
The person who leaked the email told Background Briefing that this directive had been enforced hundreds of times in less than a year.
They said it wasn't just people "from the communities" who were being assigned these rooms.
"You've got like councillors and directors who are also being put in these rooms, who in any other situation would be treated like VIPs.
"You're looking at people who were notable and who were doing charity work or anything like that, who just because they appeared Aboriginal were being given worse rooms that you wouldn't put anyone else into at all."
While it had been reported to the Northern Territory's Anti-Discrimination Commission, the whistleblower was told a formal complaint could not be made without a complaint from a direct victim.
So the ABC went undercover, with the help of Aboriginal activist Barb Shaw – who gathered some of her relatives and headed to the hotel.
Meanwhile, an identical booking was made for a non-Indigenous group – both were charged $129 for their three-person rooms.
After checking in, the Aboriginal group were directed by the receptionist to room 86 – one of the "community rooms" mentioned on the email.
However, the non-Indigenous group were issued room 48.
The difference between the two rooms couldn't be more stark. In room 86, there was broken glass on the patio, stained towels and sheets, other guests' clothing in the cupboards and a chicken bone on the bathroom floor.
Meanwhile, room 48 looked and smelled much better and was in a better location, with no glass or chicken bones on the floor.
"It's effectively a form of segregation within hotels and hostels," Sophie Trevitt, a lawyer with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, told the ABC.
"[Aboriginal] people generally have an awareness of this conduct but also people say they've talked to cleaners and talked to Aboriginal staff members who have confirmed that they are told that folks from out bush go in certain rooms and white people and non-Aboriginal folks go in other rooms."
However, the hotel denied it had a policy to racially profile guests.
Jo McKenzie, the manager of the Ibis Styles hotel, told Background Briefing: "We have two room types — being standard rooms and superior rooms — and we allocate on how people book."
She added that the email, which she was cc'ed in on, was "not relevant at the moment".
Accor Hotels, which operates the Ibis Style on behalf of the third party ownership, said it was "extremely saddened and disappointed" by the results of the investigation and would take "swift and decisive action".
The company said it would conduct a full investigation, had appointed interim management and had scheduled cultural training for all local staff.
While the undercover guests opted to not lay a discrimination complaint, Barb Shaw said the experience was tiring, draining and emotional.
"Segregation in Australia these days should not be happening at all."