Deborah Snow, WAToday (Subiaco, Western Australia), November 4, 2010
A young Aboriginal woman was “humiliated” to hear she might not look indigenous enough for a job promoting the Aboriginal employment initiative founded by mining entrepreneur Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.
Tarran Betterridge, 24, a Canberra university student, applied for the post through ACT company Epic Promotions, which had been asked to find five people of “indigenous heritage” to staff a stall at Westfield in Canberra handing out flyers for Mr Forrest’s GenerationOne.
Ms Betterridge was interviewed for 20 minutes on October 20 and told she was “perfect”. However, the interviewer, Emanuela D’Annibale, said she first had to check with her client, an agency called Let’s Launch, because of guidelines specifying it wanted “indigenous-looking” people for the job.
Ms Betterridge’s mother is white and her father a Wiradjuuri man from the Dubbo area.
When Ms Betterridge phoned the next day, Ms D’Annibale told her she was not needed as Let’s Launch had already found enough employees.
Ms D’Annibale yesterday confirmed working to guidelines that required at least some recruits to “look” indigenous. Ms Betterridge was “lovely”, she said, but “if you’re promoting Italian pasta, and you put Asians there, how’s that going to look? Wouldn’t you pick an Italian to promote the Italian pasta?”
She would have liked to hire Ms Betterridge anyway, because “she was really nice, she had so much knowledge . . . but the reason we needed at least one person who looked indigenous [was] so that it would be friendlier to indigenous people”.
“I wouldn’t have picked her for Aboriginal at all . . . to me she looked like an Aussie girl.”
She said in the end Ms Betterridge hadn’t been hired because the agency decided it didn’t need five people.
Ms Betterridge says her family is outraged and she is “shocked that a company that wants to increase indigenous employment would question hiring a person because they do not meet the colour standard”.
GenerationOne chief executive Tim Gartrell said he had instructed those responsible to apologise and would no longer use the recruiting contractor.
“The comment made by a recruiting contractor is completely inappropriate and doesn’t reflect the views, practice or ethos of anyone in GenerationOne,” he said.
Despite this, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council accused GenerationOne of abetting ” staggering” discrimination against Ms Betterridge.
Let’s Launch was unavailable for a formal response, but unofficially denied issuing the guidelines quoted by Ms D’Annibale.
The incident comes as the issue of Aboriginal identity plays out in the Federal Court. Nine Aborigines are suing Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt for racial discrimination over referring to the “fashion” of light-skinned people identifying as Aborigines.