Actor calls for training after ‘act of racism’

by John Hilton18 Apr 2016
Yet another incident in Melbourne has highlighted the importance of cultural awareness training.

About six months ago, the Indigenous actor Uncle Jack Charles was refused a taxi ride from a driver at Melbourne Airport. It was the second such occurrence for Charles within the week.

Now, the star from The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith has been involved in a similar incident, after waiting to catch a taxi from outside Flinders Street Station.

When Charles began to discuss where he was going, the driver told him he had “knocked off” and tried to drive away.

Further, the next driver also told him they had finished work. Finally, a third driver agreed to take him.

"It's very embarrassing to be refused because everyone is waiting behind me and they can see the incident," Charles was quoted as saying by the ABC.

Charles labelled it a clear "act of racism", and said that his friends were “astounded” and unsure of what to say.

At the moment, Charles is petitioning for a roundtable meeting with police, senior taxi officials, union representatives and drivers to talk about “this chronic behaviour of racial profiling by taxi drivers”.

He also wants to educate drivers, especially recent migrants to Australia, because he argues that many would have minimal knowledge of Indigenous people.

"It's about time this mob is educated,” he said. “All I'm asking for is justice and truth and honour."

Charles said that more than three quarters of taxi drivers are decent people who do stop to pick him up on the street or at a taxi rank.

"But there's the odd one who come through. I'm feeling paranoid, wondering if this cab driver will accept me," he said.

One company which has been effective in introducing cultural awareness training is the management consulting and leadership development firm Nous Group.

Their chief people officer, Amanda Codila, recently told L&D Professional that every Nous Group employee goes through cultural awareness training, which is run by an independent Indigenous facilitator.

She added that its purpose is to provide historical context around Indigenous Australians, and to raise awareness of how their employees can be respectful to them.

“It’s really about providing understanding about the culture and the history behind Indigenous Australians, and then to respect that and find ways to work with them in a way that is valuable for both parties,” Codila said.

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