Is Breastfeeding Really Welcome Here? (My Open Letter To The Melbourne Town Hall)
Dear Sir/Madam, To whom it may concern:
Firstly, I'd like to say thank you for the wonderful experience that was the Homebirth Australia Conference 2015! It was a beautiful venue and the catering was one of the best I have experienced.
I'd like to bring to your attention however an unfortunate incident that occurred on the steps of the Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday 31st May.
My son had just come to meet me for his lunch on that Sunday and his lunch happened to be breastmilk. Having breastfed two children (the first for 2 and a half years) and the second for 14 months so far, and having travelled around Australia and overseas and breastfed all the time, I have never had occasion to have to think about feeding my son. It just happens. He is hungry. I am usually pretty discreet about it anyway, he feeds and we are done.
Anyway on this occasion the gentleman on the door rushed up to me and said 'you can't do that here'. It actually took me a moment to understand what he was referring to.. So I said 'Yes I can'. He shook his head at me and ushered me to move and said 'No you can't do that here'.
I said 'But it's the law, I can feed anywhere'. He said 'There's a family room inside you'll have to go in there'. I shook my head I said 'but it's the Homebirth Conference' and turned my back on him, before sitting down on the steps.
He muttered more things under his breath about me needing to go inside, about me returning to the 3rd floor to feed and about it being 'culturally inappropriate', by which time I have managed to beckon one of the conference organisers over for support. Luckily she backed me up saying that of course I could feed my son there! He then acknowledged that he was from a different generation (?)
I felt very disconcerted by your doormans verbal tirade, I was left shaking and in tears by the end, all the while standing my ground, to feed my starving baby the breastmilk he needed. I couldn't concentrate at the conference after that and ended up leaving the building after that walking around in shock.
In Australian Federal Law breastfeeding is a right, not a privilege. Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding. Babies can be breastfed anywhere and anytime. Your doorman should not have asked me to leave or move on the basis that I was breastfeeding. I should not have been sent to the toilet (aka family room). More information can be found here: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/breastfeeding-and-law/legalright
I wasn't doing anything wrong and I was treated most unfairly by your staff member. I would like to know that your staff since this incident will receive proper training in the law, and how they should treat breastfeeding women. Perhaps you might even consider going one step further and becoming a Breastfeeding Welcome Here Venue with the Australian Breastfeeding Association: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/services/welcome
I look forward to hearing from you promptly regarding this matter, and I thank you once again for providing such a lovely conference venue. Kind regards,
Kelly Evans The Modern Doula