Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has denied non-Aboriginal evacuees are being housed in Darwin hotels while Indigenous people are being put up in tents at an emergency shelter.
Claims of racism in the housing of people who have been airlifted out of the path of category four Cyclone Trevor sprang up on social media overnight.
"Fi Fo workers & Non Indigenous ppl have been placed in accommodation, in hotels — the #IndigenousX mob in tents at the local footy field," former NRL player Joe Williams wrote on Friday night.
"#AllLivesMatter — just our lives matter a little less when it comes to care during a cyclone!!!"
There was a barrage of comments on the ABC Darwin Facebook page following reports of a discrepancy in housing:
"Who puts people in tents during a cyclone?"— Eric Edwards
"Surely their are cyclone proof school halls etc. The children can socialise and be fed properly. When the bushfires were on i didnt see tent cities for them."—Lynne Margaret McDougall
"They are in Darwin. The cyclone isn't hitting here. There's enough space to house them in hotels on the esplanade alone. There's enough space in the abondoned immigration camps. There's enough space in the empty workers camps. All of those places have a hell of a lot more to offer then some camp beds and leaky tents."—Jess Rose Hall
"Looks like they got the Fyre Festival crew in for this one!!"— Si Mackay
"If the FIFO workers have been put up by the government in hotels while our indigenous brothers have been put in tents by the same people I'll be ropable. However, if these employees have either paid for this themselves, or their employer has carried the cost, then it is a non issue for me." —Josh Dizz Moxey
Chief Minister Michael Gunner released a statement on social media, saying safety came first.
"We treat all people equally. Emergency services and volunteers are doing everything they can right now to look after everyone," he wrote.
"There are reports circulating on social media that different levels of accommodation are being provided for Territorians evacuated from the path of Cyclone Trevor. These reports are untrue.
"The NT government is providing safe emergency accommodation at several locations that is available to all evacuees who have not made their own arrangements."
Evacuees staying in hotels were there because they were vulnerable or had special needs; they had chosen to pay for their own hotel accommodation; or they had hotel accommodation provided by their employer.
"During natural emergencies it is a time for all Australians to come together and help each other, not spread divisive and false information," Mr Gunner said.
About half of registered people are spending the night at two centres in Darwin and one in Katherine, said Brent Warren, emergency management coordinator from Territory Families.
"Our role is about making sure we offer support and provide accommodation options for people," he said.
"We've certainly been really keen to make sure we keep a register of everyone who's come in so we can make sure they continue to have support whilst they're in here, and also importantly so we can make sure they're part of the plan for repatriation back to their communities.
"At the end of the day, everyone who comes into the centres have free choice about whether to stay here or to take another accommodation option. We are aware people have chosen to come in and register and then go and stay with family and friends."ABC