News Police say 4yo Indigenous girl was not assaulted in Big W store after reviewing CCTV footage

Police say 4yo Indigenous girl was not assaulted in Big W store after reviewing CCTV footage

Michael Donovan says his daughter was grabbed by the hoodie and accused of stealing from Big W. Photo: ABC News/Gabriella Marchant
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A young Aboriginal girl was “not grabbed or injured” when a Big W staff member checked a price tag still attached to a jumper she was wearing, South Australia Police say.

It comes as police say they have concluded an investigation into the alleged assault after reviewing CCTV footage from the store.

However, both Big W and SA Police have refused requests by the ABC to view the footage in question.

The girl’s father, Michael Donovan, reported a staff member to police last week after she accused Mr Donovan and his daughters of stealing at the store in Port Augusta, north of Adelaide.

Mr Donovan alleged that on their way out, after paying, a member of staff grabbed his four-year-old daughter by her hoodie in an attempt to check a price tag which was still attached.

He said his three daughters were all wearing new clothes, which had been recent gifts from their grandparents.

Police said it was “later confirmed that the clothing had been purchased from a different store but the price tag had not been removed prior to entering Big W”.

They said the child “had not been assaulted and the investigation has been concluded”.

Michael Donovan with his daughter. Photo: ABC News/Gabriella Marchant

George Newhouse from the National Justice Project is legally representing the family and said they were extremely distressed at the way they had been treated by SA Police.

“To release a statement without the courtesy of speaking to the victims, is despicable,” he said.

“The family contest the police version of events and are considering their legal options.”

Mr Newhouse said the family had also called for any witnesses to the event to come forward.

Big W team ‘trained to make everyone feel welcome’

A spokesperson for Big W said the retailer had been “proactively working with the police and shared CCTV footage to investigate the matter”.

“The police have verified the CCTV footage and confirmed that the family was approached by a customer service team member, but no one was assaulted,” a Big W spokesperson said.

The alleged incident happened at a Big W store in Port Augusta. Photo: AAP

“Our commitment to the Port Augusta community is very important to us and our team is trained to make everyone feel welcome and treat customers with respect and kindness.”

The spokesperson reiterated the team member “could have managed the situation more respectfully and she has apologised wholeheartedly to the family for any upset it has caused”.

SA Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher said the incident had shown racial profiling was still an issue in Australia.

“We saw a couple years ago, Aboriginal people not allowed into Adelaide Oval for a Reconciliation Week game,” he said.

“It’s not an isolated incident and we see it happen all too often in our society.

“Every time this happens, that brings back memories of even more racist times. It shows that we still have a long way to go and that individuals and organisations still need to lift our game.”

The ABC has reached out to the family for comment.