Recommended Resources – The Stringer – Independent News, Investigative Journalism

ALS boss attacks racist cabbies

April 4th, 2013


Aboriginal Legal Services WA (ALSWA) CEO Dennis Eggington has backed up racialist claims by David Wirrpanda that were cast by taxi drivers. Mr Eggington said that he and his colleagues from the ALSWA have on occasion been subjected to racial discrimination from taxi drivers.

Mr Wirrpanda, the former West Coast Eagles star, was refused transport by two taxi drivers, consecutively, when he was asked for an up front payment. He objected to having being asked for an upfront payment.

“I am well aware of complaints made to our organisation regarding all of that behaviour,” said Mr Eggington.

Mr Eggington said some of his colleagues had been subjected to “racist tirades” by some taxi drivers. He said that he and his colleagues were tired of taxi drivers who would slow down when they were trying to flag a taxi and “look at us, see we’re Aboriginal and then drive off.”

“Most Aboriginal people have experienced it. I certainly have,” said Mr Eggington.

Mr Wirrpanda said he had objected to being asked for the upfront payment despite taxi drivers having the right to ask for it from anyone. He said the one taxi driver threatened to take Mr Wirrpanda to the police while saying, “I’m sick of you people.”

Swan Taxis is investigating the incident. A spokesman said, “Swan Taxis does not tolerate racial vilification.”

Late on Monday night Mr Wirrpanda tweeted, “I just got kicked out of a Swan Taxi. From two (taxis) because they said I had no cash.” Angry, Mr Wirrpanda twittered the names and taxi identification numbers of the drivers. He later deleted these posts.

Mr Wirrpanda is the founder and the director of the David Wirrpanda Foundation.

Swan Taxi drivers have the right to ask any passenger to pay an estimation of the fare in advance as a deposit in order to allay a taxi driver’s fear of a ‘runner,’ which happens every so often to just about every taxi driver.

But Mr Wirrpanda’s anger is that race factored into the taxi drivers’ judgments.

Mr Wirrpanda was taken home by another taxi driver who finished up being tipped $50.

Equal Opportunities Commission WA head honcho Yvonne Henderson said, “We have complaints against taxi companies on a wide range of things, including race.”

“But that is the case for everyone. It is the case for retailers, universities and miners.”

“Race is notoriously difficult to prove because almost nobody will ever say it is because of race.”

“It is often the case that, when you look at everything in its context, you say it could not be anything but race.”

Aboriginal Elder Robert Isaacs said racism was part of Australia. “It is really sad for this to have happened to David.”

“He does great work for our communities, so for him to be treated this way is unacceptable.”

To Mr Eggington and Ms Henderson it is unacceptable for anyone to be treated in this way. But it happens.

Taxi Council of WA CEO Olwyn Williams said that taxi drivers do have the right to request payments or to ensure that a fare will be paid.

“The regulations exist because fare evasion is a major issue for the taxi industry and has been for many years, said Ms Williams.

It is within the right of a taxi driver to ask for the fare, it is not within any of their rights to racially attack someone.

The Taxi industry is a mercenary one – where taxi drivers are among the poorest of the working classes – they are owner operated drivers or contractors. Their hourly rate is low, there is no job security, they receive no superannuation unless they pay it themselves, they have no income protection or right to sick leave and time off. Many taxi drivers are also the subject of ugly racism and vilification.

Racism period needs to end but its time is yet not done.

– The writer of this article declares an impartiality conflict of interest. Earlier in  his working life he had spent nearly 5 years holding down a second  job as a night shift taxi driver. He endured various racism, some of it ugly, fare evaders and other abuses unfortunately commonplace for taxi drivers but noted that 90 per cent of the time everything was fine. He said he picked up every fare, never knocked anyone back, nor ever asked for an upfront fare but that it is a prescribed right that taxi drivers should have. Gerry Georgatos has two Masters and PhD research in the study of racism.


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