Papuan-Australian Woman Refused Entry In Brisbane Nightclub Over Cultural Facial Tattoos

“... they cannot categorise people and deny entry because they have tattoos on their face.”

Hey Chica

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A young Motuan-Australian woman has been turned away from a Brisbane nightclub over her cultural facial tattoos.

Moale James was refused entry to late-night social club Hey Chica! in the city’s oldest entertainment precinct, Fortitude Valley.

The 23-year-old art curator was celebrating her partner’s birthday with friends on Sunday when a security guard told her that her Papuan reva reva were in breach of the venue’s dress policy, which prohibits face, neck, and hand tattoos.


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“I walked across the street to another nightclub where the security guard there advised me that they cannot categorise people and deny entry because they have tattoos on their face,” she said in a Facebook post. “And the fact that I even told the guy that they were cultural shows that he simply just refused to let me enter without even calling management — which is a part of the procedure that he did not follow.”

“I went to almost five nightclubs last night and was only refused entry to Hey Chica! I wasn’t aggressive, I didn’t need to be, because of the flood of community who are rallying their support and demand for change is loud enough,” she continued.

It comes after another man in the state also tried to push for an amendment to stop venues banning people with face and neck tattoos with no cultural significance earlier this month, during the Queensland Human Right Commission’s review of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

James, who received her first facial tattoos last month to celebrate her university graduation, told the ABC that the marks are an important, generational tradition.

“Our cultural practice of tattooing was wiped from our village called Gaba Gaba,” she shared in a post in May about her attempts to reclaim and revive the practice after historical interference from British missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

She said she’s now channelling her energy into educating against the default association of face tattoos with gangs, and demanding a review into dress code policies. Under the Summary Offences Act 2005, it is illegal for a person to enter a licensed venue if they are wearing or carrying prohibited items, defined in the Liquor Act.

“While we appreciate that our rule has caused you unintended distress, we do enforce a blanket policy that prohibits head and face tattoos,” said Hey Chica! in a DM to James. “While we understand that this is a strict policy, we will continue to enforce this under the Liquor Act.

Junkee reached out to Hey Chica! for comment.

Photo Credit: Hey Chica!/Facebook