After finishing work and a quick dinner with his partner, Nooky decided to catch an Uber home from Broadway in Sydney. Not far in to the trip, the driver asked where Nooky was from and after announcing that he was from Nowra, the driver started with his shocking rant. Nooky explains " He started to say 'I heard' and as soon as he said those words I thought ‘oh no’. I had this feeling it would be something about Blackfellas. We have the biggest population of Blackfellas on the south coast so I hoped it to just be mention of that." The driver continued on, ‘I heard there is a big Abo problem down there'.
Upon hearing this Nooky started to shake, his fists clenching. It was at this point that he decided instead of reacting to the upsetting statement, that he would wait and see where the driver would go with his comments.
I had so many thoughts come in to my mind ‘What do I do?’ ‘Do I pull him up now?’ And then I thought I’ll keep my cool and see how far he goes with it and maybe do something about it so that the next Blackfella that jumps in doesn’t have to deal with this s**t.
Nooky admits it was hard for him to sit there and listen to everything the driver said. "I was telling myself to cop it on the chin and listen. From the first time he said ‘Abo’ I just sat there quiet."
The driver continued to label Aboriginal people as thieves and criminals who 'have it made' and are let off easy by police. He also went on to name other towns, where Nooky has family, that have 'similar problems'.
At the end of the trip, Nooky confronted the driver and told him that he was Aboriginal, and what Uber's refund policy was as he refused to pay for a trip where he was subjected to such offensive remarks. The driver responded by saying that he was not a racist and he himself was Aboriginal 'from his wife's side'.
Nooky says that he has experienced racism many times before, to varying degrees, though this particular experience caught him off guard. "It took me back. I used to experience racism quite a lot and I didn’t always handle it the best way. Back in the day I would have lashed out. It took me ages to figure out how to deal with it. When I got home I just sat there, thinking did I do the right thing, should I have done more? Was there more I could have done?"
Nooky managed to capture some of the rant on video, we can hear a snippet of the offensive comments here.
"For those that have not experienced racism, it can be hard to understand how damaging the effects are, on every level, all the way through from the physical to the psychological." Nooky said the experience has taken a toll, "I didn’t want to go to work the next day. When I was at work it was hard to concentrate while there."
The roots run deep and when things like this happen, it goes straight to your heart. It really rocks you. It’s a big wound and they are throwing salt in it. The history of Australia goes back a long way and what happened to our people and where these (words) stem from, for people to be using them today is unacceptable, it isn’t right.
"We have just had NAIDOC week, all these events and all this media, about reconciliation and educating broader Australia (about Aboriginal culture) for this to happen just after this? What’s going on? Terms like (Abo) shouldn’t be used," Nooky laments.
Nooky has sent a complaint to Uber, requesting a refund, which he has received but he is yet to receive any further comment as to what kind of action will be taken against the driver. "This kind of experience shouldn’t be happening with Uber. Blackfellas use Uber all the time. If this kind of experience is happening with one of their drivers, it’s not helping anybody."
Nooky has not caught an Uber since and will refuse to do so until he has a response from the company.
After the blackface issue was at the front of news debates only a few months ago, the power of the social media was able to at least generate conversation and raise awareness and Nooky is hoping for this to have the same effect. "I just wanted to shed some light on it. People say that Australia is not racist. That’s bulls**t. We go through this day to day."
After sharing his experience online Nooky has received a great amount of support, especially from others in the Aboriginal community, including rapper Briggs who Nooky says nailed the issue in his comment supporting the post. "What's Uber gonna do about their racist driver? It's a good thing Nooky is resilient and composed because what if the next passenger isn't?"
Nooky has also been shocked at the amount of people who then came forward, sharing with him their own experience of racism. "From racist bus drivers, to all sorts of things. Broader Australia needs to look. There's more we need to do".
Nooky believes that as a start cultural awareness training for all Uber drivers should be put in place.
At the time of writing NITV had not received a comment from Uber in relation to the incident.