• Ningali Lawford-Wolf (SBS News)Source: SBS News
'When will our society become equal?', wonders actor Ningali Lawford-Wolf who resorted to the aid of non-Indigenous people to get her in a taxi last Saturday.
Andrea Booth

5 Feb 2016 - 1:04 PM  UPDATED 5 Feb 2016 - 2:41 PM

"I don't need a non-Indigenous person to stand at an appropriate place, and a legal place, to wait for a taxi, to get a taxi for me," says actor Ningali Lawford-Wolf, who stars in Sydney Theatre Company's upcoming The Secret River.

Ningali, 48, told NITV News teaching some non-Indigenous people about compassion has been an exercise in repetition.

"As Indigenous people we’re continuously teaching non-Indigenous people about breaking barriers down, you know," she said.

But she adds she struggles to understand why the message isn't sinking in.

"It's like having [The Secret River director Neil Armfield] direct me and saying 'OK go to there' – I learn in three steps."

"But trying to teach someone just to be kind and have humanity, how long does that need to be taught?"

Ningali says after rehearsals finished at about 10.30pm last Saturday, she walked to the taxi stand at the front of the Roslyn Packer Theatre at Walsh Bay in Sydney.

She says one taxi approached, and as she went to open the door, it sped off.

"It didn't bother me the first instance," she said.

Then she said the same thing happened when the second, third and fourth approached.

A fifth taxi began approaching before a group of people exited a nearby restaurant and "hailed it in front of me," she says. "It picked up those customers and proceeded to go."

She then approached people standing nearby for their help to get the next taxi to let her in.

"I am very grateful to those people, I think they did the most humane thing," she said.

'It disheartens me, it humiliates me.'

But she added, "it does dishearten you, it disheartens me, it humiliates me as an Indigenous person."

After considering the prospect she could be overthinking, she concluded that four taxis driving off where she was waiting at a taxi stand was not a coincidence.

"I think it was because of the fact I was an Indigenous woman."

Ningali advises the taxi industry to grow its employees' understanding about Indigenous people.

"I think the taxi industry needs to really stamp down on their drivers and put them through some sort of cultural-awareness training.

"Because this has happened too many times, too many times." 

The Secret River opens in Sydney on 6 February before heading to Brisbane then Melbourne.