A mother in Australia has been forced to leave a playground with her kids after the officials told her they can’t play in a “multicultural group” because she’s white.
The mother said went with her eight-month-old baby and her four-year-old son to Alexandria Park Community Centre located in the inner-city Sydney.
Shortly after she arrived to the community centre for a playgroup, a staff member approached her asking whether this was her first time. Rather than being welcoming, the staff member announced that Coverdale isn’t allowed to be there.
“I’m sorry you can’t come here. It’s a multicultural playgroup,” staff member said and asked, “Can I ask what your cultural background is?”
Coverdale, a blonde mother with freckles, replied saying she’s Australian, prompting the staff to deny her entry into the playground. “I’m sorry, you can’t come here. It’s for multicultural families and people who speak languages other than English at home.”
The mother refused to leave the playground, claiming her son was having a good time with a friend in the playground, asking “Why should I leave?”
She was then approached by Jo Fletcher, the centre’s facilitator, who asked the same question as the staff member: “Can I just ask what your cultural background is?”
“I’m sorry you can’t come here. It’s a multicultural playgroup,” Fletcher said after finding out Coverdale is a fourth-generation Australian.
Fletcher didn’t respond to the paper’s requests for comment, only confirmed to the NSW Department of Education that such conversation had taken place.
According to the Australian mother, the cener insisted that the playgroup was exclusively for “multicultural” mothers who “might be lonely and might want to build a network of people who speak the same language”.
The centre’s facilitator also didn’t help Coverdale to find a playgroup that she’s allowed to participate. “We don’t have one here for you,” she said. “You’ll have to go up to Erskineville or Newtown,” locations which don’t suit the mother as they are too far away.
“We’re in a pretty progressive area, it’s very accepting of all people. But I feel like I’m excluded,” Coverdale told the paper. “How does that help Australia, help people to integrate, speak English and build a life… I pay a lot of tax. I pay my rates. To think I’m actually not welcome is unfair.”
She added that other mothers thought the way the center dealt with her was “terrible” as they “think it’s a great facility and appreciate it but they don’t want to exclude people”.
While she was at the center, she claims other mothers were allowed to enter and “were made to feel very welcome. Because they didn’t look white, they didn’t even get asked about their background.”
Following the controversy, Education Minister Rob Stokes had instructed the centre to allow all families to attend the playground.
“I was disappointed to hear that a mum and her young child felt they were not welcome… This is not acceptable. Everyone, regardless of their background, should feel included in these wonderful community activities.”
The Department of Education also “counseled” center’s facilitator Jo Fletcher on the requirements of the program to be “inclusive”.