A young woman who was refused entry to a nightclub because of her cultural face tattoos says having her ink is her ‘human right’.
Moale James, 23, who has Papua New Guinean heritage, was celebrating her partner’s birthday by heading out to Brisbane’s nightclub precinct in Fortitude Valley on Sunday morning.
But she soon found herself turned away from popular Latin American club Hey Chica! after security guards took issue with her traditional tattoos.
Ms James later took to Facebook to slam the ‘racist and discriminatory’ treatment she received.
Now, speaking to The Project, she explained why her markings are so important to her.
‘There are so many groups of diverse people here that I live with and a very big Pacific Islander population in Queensland, and there’s a lot of us that are wanting to practice culture, including marking our skin.
‘We need to be reviewing policies and legislation that are not reflective of our community. We shouldn’t have to assimilate, this is our culture and we should be allowed to practice it freely.
‘It’s a human right to do that so the laws that we live in should also reflect that, and they should reflect the community.’
Ms James had got the traditional tattoo (pictured) to celebrate her Papua New Guinean heritage
Speaking to The Project (hosts Waleed Aly and Sarah Harris pictured), the clubber explained why her markings are so important to her
Ms James says she ‘wants to make some noise’ for people who want to represent their cultural heritage.
‘We went across the road to a different venue and the security guard there, all my friends said, are you going to let her in? Like look at her license, look at her.
‘She looked at me and she said, “why wouldn’t I let you in? We actually aren’t allowed to discriminate and categorize you based on obviously what our cultural marks”.
‘And so we went and we spent the rest of the night in that venue.
‘Now we’re here trying to make some noise for anyone else that might proudly wear the marks of their ancestors too, change the legislation and liquor acts that might try to prevent us from practicing our culture.’
Moale James (pictured), 23, was denied entry to Hey Chica! for her traditional face tattoos, which she has to honour her Papua New Guinean heritage
Ms James says she ‘wants to make some noise’ for people who want to represent their cultural heritage
On the Hey Chica! website, its outline strict dress regulations.
‘Dress to impress, smart casual is best, closed in shoes are a must. No face, neck or hand tattoos. Entry is at the discretion of the door host or management, dress code may vary for special events. For more information on dress regulations please contact us before your visit,’ it reads.
Ms James has taken a stand saying she will be speaking with her local member about the ‘rule’ dictating that face tattoos are affiliated with gangs, and how this must be changed to reflect the diverse community.
She also said she expects a written apology from the venue.
In a private message to Ms James, which she shared on Facebook, the club apologised for the ‘unintended distress’ it caused but stood by its policy.
‘Thank you for sharing your experience and for your understanding that the staff at Hey Chica! were following procedure,’ the message said.
Ms James took to Facebook calling the rule ‘racist’ and ‘discrimination’ and is now set to meet with her local MP to try to make a change
In a private message to Ms James, which she shared on Facebook, the club apologised for the ‘unintended distress’ it caused but stood by its policy
‘While we appreciate that our rule has caused you unintended distress, we do enforce a blanket policy that prohibits head and face tattoos at Hey Chica! alongside other conditions of entry. While we understand this is a strict policy, we will continue to enforce this under the Liquor Act.’
Under Queensland’s liquor laws, venues face penalties if they don’t take reasonable steps to refuse people wearing items associated with criminal organisations including bikie gangs.
Talking to the ABC, Ms James said the tattoos are marks handed down through generations and were from her great-grandmother dating back to when her village was established.
She went onto say the chief of the village asked his daughters to carry the marks and their stories on their skin, a request which has echoed through generations.
‘They hold great spiritual and ancestral value to me and my community,’ she said.
Ms James said she always planned to get the face marks as they hold ‘great spiritual and ancestral value’
Hey Chica! say on its website people with face, neck or hand tattoos will be denied entry
After being turned away from the club, Ms James said she went to members of her community who are lawyers, and found out the club can refuse entry and service to people – but as long as it is not discriminatory.
‘The fact that I was clumped into a group of people that are thugs, gang members, dangerous criminals, that is not my story,’ Ms James said.
‘I went back and I said, “these are cultural and what are you going to do about that?” And no response.’
Ms James says she just people to hear her story and change their point of view on facial tattoos.
She also hopes the venue reviews its policy, but at the very least educates those who made the rules to change the way they think about people who wear their marks with pride.
Hey Chica! has been contacted for comment.