Australia: Actor and Aboriginal elder Uncle Jack Charles refused taxi in Melbourne, again
I wouldn't pick him up either. And I speak as a former taxi driver. He looks like a hobo. His race has got nothing to do with it. He needs to smarten up if he wants to be treated with respect. Most people present themselves fairly well before they hop into a taxi. It's just ignorant to do otherwise
Aboriginal elder and renowned actor Jack Charles has again been refused a cab in Melbourne because of what he calls systemic racial discrimination against Indigenous Australians by taxi drivers.
The 72-year-old was with two artists visiting from Turkey when they tried to catch a taxi from outside Flinders Street Station about 3pm on Wednesday.
"Uncle Jack" said a taxi pulled up and the party started to get inside when the driver told them he would not accept the fare. "My mate Ibrahim jumped in the front and started to explain where we were going and I started to jump in the back," Charles said.
"The driver said that he'd knocked off once he saw me. So I believe it was me, [that's] why he refused to pick us up. "Drivers that have knocked off don't actually pull in to pick up a fare."
Artist Ibrahim Koç, who is working on an art project about similarities between Aboriginal Australians and Turkey's Yörük people, was with Charles at the time and said it was an "ugly" event.
"The taxi driver saw Jack and he doesn't want to take us. Why? I don't understand."
Charles has forged a prolific acting career over more than 50 years, co-founded Australia's first Indigenous theatre group and starring in films including The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith, Blackfellas and Pan. He has also performed in many stage plays across the country and toured internationally.
But despite his stellar career, being refused a taxi has become a regular occurrence for the veteran actor.
Charles was told he couldn't catch a taxi unless he paid the fare upfront moments after being named Victorian Senior Australian of the Year in Melbourne in October last year. On that occasion, another taxi driver told him drivers were allowed to request pre-payment from Aboriginals.
Just two days later, a taxi allocated to collect him at Melbourne Airport sped off without him.
Charles said on Wednesday that regularity did nothing to lessen the pain caused by such acts of discrimination. "I won't sleep tonight, I'll be writhing in pure agony of the mind… this really impacts on me, totally," he said.
Charles said many taxi drivers came from overseas and industry education was needed to stamp out discrimination. "These incidents are repeated over and over again," he said. "It's illegal, it's racist, it's racial profiling and it shouldn't be done, so we need to educated this mob."
Charles said he approached the taxi industry after last year's incidents to arrange a round-table discussion about discrimination against Aboriginal passengers, but it had not eventuated.
He intends to sue the driver who refused to pick him up on Wednesday and his driving company for racial discrimination.
The Taxi Services Commission said it would investigate the incident "pending further information being provided about the taxi involved".
"Racial discrimination is totally unacceptable," a commission spokesman said.
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