Aletha Wilkinson and the other seven mums in her mothers’ group had their weekly catch-up yesterday. The venue they chose was The Bonython Cafe in the Sydney suburb of Paddington. All pretty normal and unremarkable.
The mums had their eight-month-old babies in their laps or prams. They sat at their table, with their coffees, and waited for menus to be brought to them. They waited an hour, even though there were hardly any other customers in the cafe.
It was only when one of the women asked a staff member if there was a change table in the toilets that she realised the group wasn’t welcome. The staff member apparently told her that they didn’t have a change table, and that the cafe wasn’t the venue for them. She said it was a “business-oriented” environment, where people needed to have meetings. According to the new mother, the staff member said it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for the mothers’ group to meet there again.
The eight women got up and left with their babies.
Other babies in another cafe. Usually welcome. Photo supplied.
"It was crushing," Wilkinson tells Mamamia.
"In the space of a few seconds, we went from enjoying a coffee and a chat to feeling humiliated and ashamed, and like we had somehow misread the situation. This cafe that we had specifically chosen as our wet-weather option, because it had plenty of space for prams, was not for us."
Wilkinson, a journalist, wasn't prepared to leave it there. She rang the cafe, to try to clarify the situation. But she wasn't able to speak to anyone. The phone seemed to have been taken off the hook.
Wilkinson is now lodging a formal complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
"I'm going to the board because this is a women's issue," Wilkinson says, "and frankly, I'm not okay with anyone being unfairly discriminated against."