go to content

This Indigenous Woman Was Refused A Taxi Four Times Because Of Her Skin Colour

The AACTA nominee says she was humiliated.

Posted on

Critically acclaimed stage and screen actor Ningali Lawford-Wolf, 48, has told BuzzFeed News that she was left humiliated and angry after four taxis refused to pick her up in Sydney on Saturday.

Wendy Mcdougall

"I’m just lucky that my children weren’t with me in a way, to be subjected to those kind of things, because my children don’t see colour. It does humiliate me, especially when you work so hard to educate non-Indigenous people and breaking down barriers," Lawford-Wolf tells Buzzfeed News.

"When something like this happens it really disheartens you as an Aboriginal person, it breaks your spirit and you go, 'oh my god again,' that sinking feeling in your stomach."

The incident took place at around 10:30pm, after Lawford had finished rehearsals for upcoming Sydney Theatre Company production, The Secret River, directed by Neil Armfield.

Ningali Lawford-Wolf in rehearsals for The Secret River (Sydney Theatre Company)

"I was the only one at the rank and the taxi came up, turned into me, saw me, I was about to open the door and then it took off."

"I just thought, 'oh well, that’s a one-off incident,' and then the second one [taxi] came, pulled in, saw me and took off. I thought that’s getting a bit ridiculous."

The fourth taxi ignored Lawford-Wolf and picked up a group of people not at the rank.

"The taxi was coming up toward the rank and saw me. They [the group] hailed it in front of me and it pulled up, they jumped in and kept going."

A frustrated Lawford-Wolf then had to resort to asking a nearby group of non-Indigenous people to stand with her and hail a taxi.

Last Cab To Darwin.

"I called out to the group and told them what was going on and what happened. I said, "I’ve been standing at this rank, which is an appropriate place to stand when you’re waiting for a taxi and I had four cars take one look at me and go past me," they ended up coming up [to the taxi rank] with me and standing with me and putting me in a cab."

"Now I’m grateful for those people coming and putting me in a taxi, but I shouldn’t be waiting and relying on a non-Indigenous person to hail me a cab, this is ridiculous."

Lawford who's appeared in seminal Australian films like Rabbit Proof Fence and Bran Nue Dae, says it was a crushing moment after an amazing 2015, in which she garnered an AACTA nomination for best lead actress for her work in Last Cab to Darwin co-starring Michael Caton.

"It’s happened numerous times, we are just tired of it."

"Not only did they [the taxi drivers] leave me, an Indigenous person standing there, they also left a woman standing on her own. Where's your humanity? It was late at night," Lawford says.

Lawford-Wolf is the latest high-profile Indigenous person calling out discrimination within the taxi industry. Veteran Aboriginal stage actor Jack Charles has been lobbying to introduce comprehensive cultural awareness training for drivers.

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

“I want taxi drivers to realise that being black means most of the time you will be ignored by taxis if you’re on the street,” Charles, who's been the victim of several well-publicised incidents of taxi discrimination, told BuzzFeed News in December.

“This is a common occurrence on the streets for Aborigines, we have to take total strangers, white people, off the street to hire a cab for us, that’s disgraceful."

Lawford-Wolf agrees with Charles and would like to see more awareness around the issue, but says her taxi using days are over.

"I think taxi mob need to start doing a cross-cultural awareness training within the industry or do something about this problem because it’s just continuous and continuous. It’s not as if we don’t have money, our money is just as legal as the whitefella's money," she says.

"I think I am going to be going with Uber next time I need a ride and I am not going to go taxis anymore."

Allan Clarke is an Indigenous Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at allan.clarke@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.