A social media storm has erupted over a chalkboard message placed outside a Seddon cafe run by Maribyrnong’s 2019 Citizen of the Year.
Seddon Deadly Sins Cafe posted a photo of the board to its Facebook page, triggering backlash from critics who believed the message made light of domestic violence again women with a disability.
After criticism of the post as ableist and demeaning, the cafe, co-owned by Chris Gooden, posted a comment defending the board’s message.
“I don’t believe in censorship, it is just a silly pun. I do hope… our followers get that.”
The post attracted a stream of further criticism from people living with disability and others who found it inappropriate.
A woman living with a disability after a serious accident said the chalked message was in very poor taste.
“The fact that you thought it was ok to joke about disability and domestic violence says a lot about you as a human being.”
The post remained online for most of the day, before being deleted on Wednesday evening.
The cafe later posted an apology after being contacted by former western suburbs Greens MP Colleen Hartland.
“Today I made the mistake of making light of something that I had not considered was a brutal reality for some people.
“Colleen Hartland shared a report with me that highlighted domestic violence against people with disabilities. I’m ashamed that it took this for me to learn about this abuse.
“I apologise for my ignorance and any offence that it has caused. Regardless of the original intent, I should have known better.”
Ms Hartland said she rang Mr Gooden about the message board and as soon as she explained the issue, he understood why he was wrong to think it was a joke.
“I have known Chris a long time, he is a friend and a good person.”
While a number of posters welcomed the apology, many said it took too long to come and the damage had already been done.
One poster said making light of the discrimination and difficulty her sister faces was abhorrent.
“Domestic violence has also been part of our life, which makes this an awful double blow. It’s good you’ve owned it but it’s never okay to punch down. Never.”
Mr Gooden was announced in January as Maribyrnong’s Citizen of the Year for his advocacy for the LGBTIQ community, support of Indigenous hospitality training and volunteer work feeding homeless people.
He was a leading advocate in the push for marriage equality in 2017, painting a giant ‘Yes’ on the side wall of his cafe.
Mr Gooden told Star Weekly he has to stand by his actions, both good and bad.
“I’m sorry if I hurt anyone, it was definitely not our intention.”