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Indigenous Musicians Refused Service By Multiple Darwin Taxi Drivers

Written by Nastassia Baroni on April 20, 2015

Two Indigenous musicians, who are relatives and collaborators of Australian musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, were refused services by three taxi drivers in Darwin after they attended a traditional ceremony nearby.

Reports NT News, the Creative Director for Darwin-based independent label Skinnyfish Music Michael Hohnen accompanied Territory musicians Jonathan Yunupingu and Djunga Djunga Yunupingu, described as Gurrumul’s “main songwriters”, to a funeral, and afterwards booked a taxi for the men.

“We called a cab around 5pm and it turned up and saw them and drove away,” Mr Hohnen said. “It was pretty shocking. It was a good $60-$100 fare to Casuarina and then Palmerston.”

He said he rang the Blue Taxi Company who apologised and sent another cab. When that cab showed up, Mr Hohnen said the driver “saw the guys and drove off again”. It then reportedly happened a third time.

“It wasn’t until the fourth attempt that a driver stopped and I can almost guarantee (the driver) wouldn’t have stopped if I hadn’t been there,” said Mr Hohnen.

Mr Hohnen said the incident was all to familiar to Jonathan and Djunga Djunga Yunupingu, adding that they “don’t blink these days” over acts of racism. “They are educated, good people … the only thing that stood out was that Jonathan had some white paint on his face from the ceremony,” Mr Hohnen said.

“They were upset about it, and I was upset watching it, so I asked if they minded if I posted about it on Facebook and the uncle said to say how offended he was and how it wasn’t the right thing for the driver to do.

“I’ve seen it time and time again over my 20-plus years working with indigenous artists,” he added. “I see how hard it is for them to get a cab.”

Gurrumul himself was victim of a similar incident back in 2012, when it was reported that he was denied service by a Melbourne taxi driver after playing a show with Missy Higgins at the Palais Theatre.

“More people need to be reporting this stuff for policies to be brought in to prevent it happening,” Mr Hohnen said.

Gallery: Gurrumul @ Sydney Opera House 28/05/2013 / Photos by Prue Upton

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