Human rights news in other jurisdictions

Reconciliation WA chairwoman Carol Innes refused taxi in Perth because of race

James Carmody | June 26, 2018

The WA Department of Transport is investigating whether appropriate disciplinary action has been taken after a taxi driver refused to accept a fare last month from Aboriginal woman and co-chair of Reconciliation WA, Carol Innes.

Ms Innes lodged a complaint about the incident, which she said was blatant racism from the Swan Taxis driver.

She told ABC Radio Perth it was about 4:30pm on a Thursday afternoon after a long day at work when she got into the first cab on the rank on William Street in the CBD, only to be immediately kicked out by the driver.

Ms Innes said she was told twice to get out and, feeling tired and frustrated, she stepped out and into the next taxi in the queue.

She said that driver had seen the incident unfold in front of him and was not going to stand for it.

"He pulled up behind the first driver and basically said to him, 'You're on the rank, it's not a car park, you take the fare, it's the same money,' but the first driver just told him to get f***ed," she said.

"He was so apologetic to me and so angry, it lifted my heart."

 Ms Innes said she had intended to let the matter go but the support of the second driver encouraged her to lodge a complaint with Swan Taxis.

"I think if you're in a public service and you're doing a public service to the whole of the public, you need to treat the whole of the public with the respect that is due," she said.

"I think it's ignorance. He might have had his own issues with other people, and that could have been it."

Department investigating

Upon lodging a complaint with the taxi operator, Ms Innes said she was told there was little they could do as she had not noted the driver's name or identification number.

She then contacted the City of Perth and tracked down the driver's vehicle number, which had been captured on the city's CCTV system.

Swan Taxis confirmed to the ABC that the driver's details were provided to the Department of Transport, and the company was assisting with investigations.

Ms Innes said she was disappointed with Swan Taxis and the time taken to address her complaint.

 A spokeswoman from the Department of Transport confirmed it was notified of the complaint more than two weeks ago.

She said the Department was prepared to step in to ensure the issue is resolved appropriately.

Providing a voice for the voiceless

Ms Innes said incidents of racism involving taxi drivers was still common in Western Australia.

"Over and over and over again, when we're out together, taxi drivers won't stop for us," she said.

"If we've got non-Aboriginal people with us they will stop for them and we will jump in.

"I've heard taxi drivers call us 'abos' and I've said 'stop the car and let me out right here'."

 She said it was important for her to stand up and call out racism when it occurred, on behalf of those who are often unable to do so.

"A lot of our people don't get the opportunity or the information I've got," she said.

"Whilst we can talk about building reconciliation we still need to work with the people serving the public, that they need to demonstrate a level of respect for all people."