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Manager of Gurrumul Yunupingu claims taxi refused fare based on race

Posted by: Ellen Feely | 5 December, 2012 - 10:17 AM
Manager of indigenous artist Gurrumul Yunupingu says a cab driver refused him a fare based on race.

The manager of indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu has told Neil Mitchell how he believed a cab driver refused his client a fare after seeing the colour of his skin.

Mark Grose explained how following Missy Higgins’ concert at the Palais Theatre last night, he hailed a taxi and asked the driver to wait near the side door of the St Kilda theatre.

Mr Grose said he again asked the driver to wait, reassuring him he and two fellow passengers would soon arrive. Mr Grose’s business partner and performer Michael Hohnen then stood next to the cab, awaiting the blind artist’s arrival.

"(Gurrumul’s) partner, Bronwyn, let him out through the back passage of the Palais and then immediately came out the side door," Mr Grose said.

"The taxi driver looked at him, said no, locked the taxi and drove off."

The ARIA award-winning artist was at the Palais Theatre where he had appeared as a support artist at a concert for Missy Higgins.

Mr Grose said there was no other explanation for the cab driver, who was of sub continental descent, refusing the fare other than a decision based on race.

WATCH VIDEO: Gurrumul performs live in studio with Denis Walter:

"He was happy to wait until he saw, and I can only say that this is correct, that he saw the colour of Gurrumul's skin and said I'm not taking that person and drove off,” he said.

Mr Grose said Gurrumul reacted ‘matter-of-factly’ by saying: "That’s the way it is."

"It's not the way it is, it can't be the way it is. This is not acceptable," Mr Grose said.

"But it happens too frequently.

"When I was talking to (another) taxi driver, he was also Indian or Pakistani, and I said surely you guys understand what racism is."

Mr Grose said he hadn’t recorded any identifying features of the cab and had been told by the Taxi Directorate nothing could be done to hold the driver to account.

"I'm in the process of ringing each taxi company and saying right, I want to know who was in St Kilda at 10:30 last night," he said.

"The reason for me to actually talk about it is that people have got to be aware that this happened so we can actually get rid of it, rather than just accept it and go that's just the way it is."

Mr Grose said he hoped the cab driver could be found in order to counsel him and make him face Gurrumul to offer him an apology.

"He's made a snap decision and to lose your job is probably a bit harsh, but he needs to be counselled," he said.

"Someone needs to talk to him or he needs to come and apologise to Gurrumul."

Neil Mitchell said if the accusation of racism was correct, 'all Hell' needed to be raised.

"A taxi driver in Melbourne, in this century, in this year, in this day, did not want to pick up an indigenous passenger," he said.

"If that is proven to be correct...that taxi driver should never be allowed near a cab again.

"The message has to go out screamingly loud to everybody driving a cab in this town, that is massively unacceptable."

Chair of the Taxi Inquiry Professor Allan Fels he was unsurprised to hear the Victorian Taxi Directorate's statement that nothing could be done to locate this driver, and pointed to the issue of how Melbourne's taxi system operate as a whole.

LISTEN: Professor Fels speaks with Neil Mitchell

"The bigger message from this is that the system works very poorly," he said.

"The standard of service just has to be lifted so that that kind of thing doesn't happen."

Professor Fels said his proposed changes included making the booking company responsible for their drivers' actions.

"The guarantee provisions of the consumer laws should apply. They apply to most businesses, (but) they don't apply to this business because they don't have employees," he said.

"They just have people on bailment and there's no legal responsibility for them."

Professor Fels called on the Victorian Taxi Directorate to work harder to locate the driver of the taxi involved in the incident, but said if found to have refused a fare based on racism the driver would only receive a small fine.

LISTEN: Mark Grose speaks with Neil Mitchell:

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Blog comments Your Say

  • Why does anyone bother saying anything?

    hommyl Tuesday 18 December, 2012 - 11:50 PM
  • Neill get over yourself. You are the most racist joker on radio. Double standard is your way of life. What proof do you have to call this taxi driver a racist. I wish I was him I will sue your ass out. You have six hours to attack someone so no one dares come on air to defend themselves for 5 minute.

    Concerned Wednesday 12 December, 2012 - 1:20 PM
  • Well done Mitchell

    When are you going to drive a cab for one weekend and see what taxi drivers have to deal with. you have been very unfairly critical on taxi drivers for a long time. Be fair and put aside your racial prejudice and give see how bad it is. Please please please.
    Most truck drivers are Aussies and you have given them a fair go. I think cabbies deserve the same.

    Adrian Wednesday 12 December, 2012 - 9:27 AM
  • maybe we should start showing how racist these indians are and go rallying in the city against indian racist smelly rude taxi drivers and demand a equal oppurtunity working enviroment. only then we can keep them at bay.....sorry

    farki ndianskum Thursday 6 December, 2012 - 10:28 PM
  • stop all of you single mined d heads just stop as an ex driver i said no to a lot of people getting in my cab when people held up by people or drunk or sick etc etc etc so many reason to say no get the other side of the story before you all go off half cocked remember 2 sides to the story

    bushiepete Thursday 6 December, 2012 - 4:26 PM
  • How can anyone say that this was the reason why. I am so over the Black Vs White race card delt out over & over & over. Its about time some in our community get over it & find another platform to vent their anger at, why sometimes in life things don't alway go one's way. Black/White pink or blue, so what, we are all human & eat/sleep/see/walk the same way!! Somethimes the game is played so much by a handful of people it becomes boaring & means nothing. But only to those who might think its a slow news day.
    Sick & Tired.

    David Henry Wednesday 5 December, 2012 - 10:51 PM

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