August 30, 2018 Olivia Perreault
A Pink fan and music journalist in Sydney, Australia was told that she could not sit in the general admission area at the show in her wheelchair, despite her VIP tickets.
Marlena Katene, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, had purchased tickets to Pink’s Wild At Heart Tour with her carer Bert Hibbert at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena. Each of the concertgoers were among the 115 people who paid $254 for the VIP experience, allotting them spots close to the stage.
However, Katene was confronted by a security guard who said “no wheelchairs are allowed on the floor.”
“They used bullying tactics, intimidation and the police were called,” Hibbert told Nine News AU. “We weren’t after any favours, we didn’t want any preferential treatment, we just wanted the experience we’d paid for.”
Hibbert challenged the officers to show him the written policy, stating that wheelchairs were not allowed on the floor, since they had been to Pink’s show in Melbourne with floor seats and didn’t have an issue.
“If we wanted to be sitting we would have bought those tickets, we aren’t asking for any special treatment,” he said.
Security then escorted Hibbert out of the venue. While Katene was allowed to stay at the show, she had to stay in the back with two ushers alone. She said that she did not have anyone to help her communicate, eat or drink and was “frustrated and alone when I wasn’t allowed to mix with the others.”
“In my mosh-pit experience having a wheelchair creates an even greater level of respect on the floor,” she said. “The social aspect is worth the VIP ticket price alone and something I would not experience in the wheelie section.”
Qudos Bank Arena stated that they’ve had a “long history of trying to accomodate [Katene’s] requests.”
“We respect Ms. Katene’s enthusiasm and excitement to enjoy the concert in the way she had anticipated, however we have a duty of care to Ms. Katene as well as all other patrons to ensure a safe event for all,” the arena said in a statement.
While the pair received a refund from the venue, it does not account for the discrimination that has been made. Katene is currently seeking legal representation and has reached out to Pink herself.
Shine Lawyers’ discrimination law expert Christie Toy said that if a concertgoer was removed from a concert simply because they had a disability, then it is certainly a legal issue.
“It is unlawful in Australia to discriminate against a person with a disability when providing goods, services and access to places,” he said. “Stadiums must adhere to the legislation and ensure that those with a disability have the same right of enjoyment at a concert as those who do not have a disability. This will not be achieved if they are being relegated to a walkway.”
As of right now, Pink has not responded to the incident.