Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner says he is shocked and upset after a video emerged showing a person outside a tour company spraying a hose towards an Indigenous man sitting on a busy footpath in the centre of Darwin.
NT Police said they were aware of the video and would make enquiries in the wake of the footage, which was recorded outside Darwin Fishing Office on Thursday last week.
“I was shocked and upset to see footage of an elderly man being hosed from the Mitchell Street footpath,” Mr Gunner said on his Facebook page.
“This is not what the Territory is about.
“This is not what I grew up knowing and loving about my home.”
The business since has defended its staff member, denying that water was sprayed on the man and calling for support from authorities to clean up the CBD.
‘He wasn’t acting aggressively’
The person who filmed the incident did not wish to be identified, but told the ABC they heard the staff member asking the elderly man to go away before going inside to get the hose.
“I thought the staff member was being quite aggressive,” the witness said.
“That’s why I started filming and then I saw him physically get the hose and come out.”
They said the man sitting on the ground was not behaving aggressively.
“The old man did get up and did end up walking away, and as we came out the the other side of Coles about five to 10 minutes later, he seemed a bit cranky about what had happened to him,” the witness said.
They said the man appeared to feel ashamed about what happened.
“After he came out I gave him some water and my husband gave him a cigarette.”
Business denies hosing man, says it’s suffered abusive backlash
However, the operations manager of Darwin Tours, which includes the Darwin Fishing Office, denied that water was sprayed on the man.
“The hose was not used to move the man on, if you do watch the video, the water does not actually come into contact with the gentleman,” Colin Bird said.
He alleged that the man had been involved in a domestic dispute outside the business late on Thursday afternoon, and when police had not attended 40 minutes later, that an employee went outside to hose down the footpath.
“The supposed use of a hose was just to wash away the front of the store, it’s a common occurrence in the area; most mornings we’re required to wash away a variety of urine, vomit, faeces, et cetera that’s left there,” Mr Bird said.
“And I’m not just singling out Indigenous or itinerants there, other people are responsible for that.”
He said he confirmed the time of the incident with police, as well as the fact that the night patrol eventually moved the man on.
He said the man told the NT News that the incident occurred in the early morning, but said shadows cast by buildings on Mitchell Street proved his assertion that it was late afternoon.
“That in itself is an untruth, a lie,” Mr Bird said.
“In regards to the use of the hose, it may or may not have been the right thing,” he said, but noted the employee had few options other than physically moving the man, which may have been deemed an assault.
He said the video clip had been taken out of context and did not represent what shop owners in the CBD had to deal with, and said the business had been subjected to harassment.
“Quite a lot of abusive, threatening phone calls, the posts online on the Facebook page threatening physical harm to employees of the business.
“The abuse that other employees are getting and even the neighbouring shop is getting from anonymous people not willing to give their name, but willing to ring up with abuse and threats is completely unfounded and uncalled for.”
Mr Bird said he wanted Territorians to be more aware of difficulties businesses in the city faced with anti-social behaviour driving away customers, and said he wanted the new Darwin Council, the NT Government and police to work with businesses.
“Let’s make it an issue to clean up the city and make it a vibrant place to go,” he said.
‘All elders deserve respect’
A senior member of Darwin’s Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Donna Jackson, said all elders must be given proper respect.
“The elderly man was simply resting in the shade, so the reaction is totally unjustified,” Ms Jackson said.
“We are more than 30 per cent of the NT population so my advice to Mr Impatient Hosey Man and the other shopkeeper [is]: please book yourselves in for some cross-cultural training.
“If you want to remain welcome and prosperous here, it’s still a small town.”