The Blacktown Arts and Crafts Centre has vehemently denied allegations of discrimination against a pottery class for HIV positive men.
Centre president Brenda de Smid said she is happy to go before the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (ADT) over claims the Blacktown Outdoors Group was treated unfairly.
According to de Smid, no one at the centre had problems with the HIV status of the men involved but, she said, there were ongoing problems with the group’s leaders, Michael Moore and Jeff Lees.
“As soon as they came in, they told our pottery tutor they were taking over the studio,” de Smid told Sydney Star Observer.  “We were constantly getting calls that people weren’t happy with them. We tried to mediate, to calm things down in the pottery rooms.”
De Smid alleged Moore and Lees repeatedly locked communal cupboards and kilns and intimidated other teachers and violated centre rules they were made aware of from the outset.
Moore denied ever exchanging more than heated words with anyone at the centre and said locks had only been placed on kilns to protect the work from another tutor they believed was removing their work.
De Smid said requests for tutors to undergo a police check were in no way out of the ordinary.
“All our tutors, by law, have to have a police report. We gave them an extension to get theirs in, and they would still not produce that,” she said.
After ongoing disagreements, all pottery students were placed on a three-month probation.
On the day Moore and Lees were asked to remove their belongings from the space, de Smid said the pair verbally assaulted committee members, calling one a child molester.
Moore denied either he or Lees made this accusation, but did respond to a committee member’s question about filing a police report by asking, “How do we know you’re not a pedophile?”
De Smid said another member called the police, “because of the abuse. They were right in my face yelling at me”.
A former Blacktown Outdoors pottery group member, Lawrie Walters, corroborated de Smid’s version of events, calling the group’s decision to go before the ADT “nothing but a play for attention”.
Moore claimed Walters had been asked to leave his class. When asked whether this matter was strictly about being discriminated against as HIV positive people, Moore said “it’s a few things”.

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