ADRIAN LOWE July 26, 2012
A Reservoir family whose Christmas holiday plans were ruined have won a discrimination payout from a caravan park owner — because he refused to allow them stay at his park with their adult sons.
James Galea took Blairgowrie Caravan Park owner Ross Hartnett to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after his family's booking was refused, Mr Hartnett having raised concerns about the supervision of Mr Galea's sons, aged 18 and 21.
Mr Galea told the tribunal that Mr Hartnett told him on the phone that he would need to book a three-week stay from December 24 last year. He and his wife then went to the park the weekend after the phone inquiry and were told that the ages of their sons meant that the price would be now be $930, rather than $720.
Mr Hartnett told Mr and Mrs Galea that their sons would need to be supervised — Mr Galea said that Mr Hartnett had added that the family did not fit in with the park's clientele.
Mr Galea also alleged that Mr Hartnett told him that he preferred middle-aged couples with young children, and he could not help.
Mrs Galea told the tribunal that it was unbelievable that Mr Hartnett demanded she and her husband visit the site to pay in person, but that it became an interview for their suitability, and he had used their sons' ages as an excuse.
Mr Hartnett contended that he had already told the Galeas that their boat was too big to be accommodated on site and believed that the family would not enjoy their trip if the sons spent the entire time in the park with their parents and no boat.
In her recent judgment, VCAT member Anna Dea said she did not accept Mr Hartnett's version of events, and believed that he wanted information about the Galeas' sons to determine if they were appropriate for the park.
She said she was satisfied Mr Hartnett had told the Galeas that the park would not be suitable for them, meaning accommodation had been refused because of their parental status, which was discriminatory.
Ms Dea said that compensation was appropriate because if Mr Hartnett had not discriminated against Mr Galea, "he would have had the planned holiday with his wife and sons".
Mr Galea was unsuccessful in his claims for lost wages and failure to find alternative accommodation.
He told the tribunal that Blairgowrie Caravan Park had been their last chance to go away together, having inquired with 15 other accommodation providers.
"The fact that they were not going away spoilt Christmas Day," Ms Dea said in her judgment of the Galeas. "They spent the leave period doing day trips and were unable to use their caravan. With the booking not going ahead, their chance of a holiday was lost."
Ms Dea awarded Mr Galea, as the case applicant, $1000 in compensation and $90 for the petrol and car wear for the wasted trip from Reservoir to Blairgowrie.
"That amount is significant enough for Mr Hartnett and the broader community to appreciate the seriousness of discrimination of this kind," Ms Dea said.