The Blacktown Outdoors Group will lodge a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board after being ousted, under police escort, from the community arts centre it uses to hold pottery classes for HIV positive men.
The group has been running classes at the centre run by the Blacktown Arts and Crafts Group since the end of last year.
The centre’s committee was aware from the outset that the group was to be run for HIV positive men.
Blacktown Outdoors Group co-organiser Michael Moore said the HIV status of the men involved was revealed to other centre users without their knowledge. This precipitated a series of disagreements which led to the group being asked to remove their possessions under police escort.
Tensions started escalating after it was claimed a class member left a sculpture of a penis and testicles in a classroom.
“We were the only ones accused of leaving it there. There was no investigation into the matter as far as I know, but when we told them outright no one in our group had made it, [the arts centre committee] never responded,” Moore said.
Moore and the group’s other co-organiser, who asked not to be named, were then asked to undergo a pedophile check.
Moore said he received a call from Arts and Crafts Group president Brenda de Smid telling him that his and his partner’s centre membership had been revoked after a copy of Sydney Star Observer was found in a classroom.
“They said they’d found a copy of Sydney Star Observer in the class, which breached the rules of the arts and crafts group — though we had never been issued with a copy of the rules. We were told because children used the studios, Sydney Star Observer was inappropriate,” Moore said.
“We were told we had to remove our stuff immediately.”
While at the centre packing their things, Moore said conversations with de Smid got heated, but that the reaction to call police was “melodramatic”.
“When we came back to pick up our second round of stuff the police were there. They said they’d been called to stop a breach of the peace,” he said.
“I don’t think we, or they, really understood why they’d been called.”
Moore said the group would now pursue legal avenues over what it considers breaches of its members’ privacy, and discrimination.
“The guys in the class feel discriminated against and judged. Watching what’s happened to us has had an effect on everyone,” Moore said.
The Blacktown Arts and Crafts Group was contacted several times last week, but did not respond to calls.
The Blacktown Outdoors Group is considering moving to the Pine Street Community Arts Centre in Chippendale.