Vinnies Meet With Indigenous Elder After 'Disturbing' Incident At Bushfire Relief Centre
Indigenous Elder Frank Harrison has received a face to face apology after he was allegedly racially targeted by a charity volunteer while evacuating his home during a bushfire.
A highly respected elder in his community, Mr Harrison was evacuated from his home at Lakes Entrance near Bairnsdale in Victoria on January 4, as bushfires came racing through.
He had nothing but the clothes on his back and went to a relief centre to ask for help.
There, Mr Harrison was allegedly told by a St Vincent de Paul staff member that volunteers had "helped enough of your people today".
He was reportedly given a $20 fuel voucher, and told by the same Vinnies staff member: "Don't tell any of your friends".
The incident left the 78 year old devastated.
He told 10 daily that, having endured a lifetime of racism where his family were shooed out of movie theatres and denied the opportunity to rent homes, this incident had a strong effect on him.
"I just couldn't take it anymore," he said. "I've had it all my bloody life."
"There's no reason to talk like that to people."
His experience was documented in a social media post, which quickly went viral and caught the attention of St Vincent de Paul heads, who quickly issued an "unreserved apology".
On Wednesday, Victorian president Kevin McMahon and deputy president Michael Quinn visited Mr Harrison to apologise in person.
The group sat together for about an hour, in a meeting Mr Harrison described as "good".
He said he was happy to speak with the duo, and that he was ready to "just let it go".
"I spoke to his people," he said. "They're working with the Aboriginal people -- they apologised -- said the guy was tired, he was flat out all day."
Vinnies Australia said the group were keen to do more to develop their relationship with the country's Indigenous people, in a statement shared on Facebook.
"We listened and learned how we can work better with the community in the future, and we apologised for any distress caused," the statement read.
"We care so much that we would never let this issue go."
Featured Image: Supplied/ Phillip Stewart
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