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1965 Australian Freedom Ride
Transcript of 1965 Australian Freedom Ride
The aim of the journey was to gather information and peacefully campaign against racial discrimination (Dawkins, 2004). The group wanted to draw attention to the poor state of health, education and housing of the Indigenous community (Taffe, 2008).
In Walgett this changed somewhat. The first picket line was held outside the local Retired Services League (RSL), to protest the refused of admittance for Aboriginal people. The local indigenous people were uncertain about joining the protest, but eventually did.
Arguments between the townspeople and picketers ensued. The SAFA were run out of town and the bus rammed off the road by a truck. The local aboriginal people protected them (Cassidy, 2002).
The town of Moree, located in north-west NSW, made it to world news when the Freedom Riders escorted local Aboriginal children to the segregated public pool.
It was said to be a watershed moment (Susie, 2009) in Australia's history and a challenge to the white Australian population to change.
It appears things didn't stay changed. The group returned to Moree concerned for their safety but determined to see the issue through.
They were forced to retreat and escorted out of town by the police (Cassidy, 2002).
The Freedom Ride, and in particular Perkins and Willams, were catalytic in moving forward regarding Indigenous Rights (Curthoys, 2011).
In August 1965 the SAFA and the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA) challenged the segregation of the Luxury Theatre in Walgett. There were arrests, but the campaign was eventually a success, with the theatre and local hotel desegregated (Clark, 2008).
In 2005, forty years after the original Freedom Ride, a group of young people, members of ReconciliACTION re-traced the journey.
Initiated by Sydney University and working with local reconciliation groups, Aboriginal organisations and local councils and communities, the 2005 Freedom Riders organised community events and conducted interviews in the 13 towns visited by the original 1965 Freedom Riders, to see how things had changed (Reconciliaction, 2010).
The Freedom Rides were the beginning. The bus is still rolling...
1965 - inspired by USA Freedom Riders, a busload of students from the SAFA, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, traveled through regional NSW in a non-violent protest against the discrimination of Aboriginal people.
They faced violence,
protests and abuse.
May 1964 - Violent clashes between students and police outside the US Consulate in Sydney protesting against the US Civil Rights Bill initiated by Kennedy.
A letter writer to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mrs R. Schodde writes: "Only when all Australians stop treating the aborigine as a second class citizen and accept him into the white society without reservation can our student groups protest against racial discrimination in other countries without hypocrisy".
July 1964 - Challenged, the students met and formed the "Sydney University Organising Committee for Action on Aboriginal Rights". It faded away after a demonstration outside parliament house in Sydney in July.
1964 - Sometime later the Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA) was formed with Charles Perkins and Gary Williams elected as leaders.
February 12 depart Sydney
Protests also occurred in the Coonamble & Bowraville communities in conjunction with the Walgett protests in 1965 (Cassidy, 2002).
The Sydney Morning Herald published news on the Freedom Ride (Curthoys, 2011). Darce Cassidy notes that the ABC, his employer, refused to air audio footage he had gathered while he was part of the group on the bus. He traveled not as a journalist but in his holiday time (Cassidy, 2002) (Cassidy, 2002).
Caption: Students involved in the demonstration against discrimination of Aboriginal people in Walgett, NSW, 1967 (Watson-Ekstein, 1967).
Charles Perkins and local children in the Moree pool, 1965 (unknown, 1965).
(The Big M Crew, 2011)
Cassidy, D. (2002). RSL Club. Retrieved July 2013, from The Australian Freedom Rides: http://freedomride.net/
Clark, J. (2008). Now it seems it is Australia's turn: Students and the Freedom Ride. In W. Crawley, Aborigines & Activism:
Race, Aborigines & the Coming of the Sixties to Australia (pp. 150-179). UWA Publishing.
Curthoys, A. (2010, May 27). A journey to fight racial discrimination. Retrieved July 2013, from Australian Geographic:
Curthoys, A. (2002). Freedom Ride: A freedom rider remembers. Sydney, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Curthoys, A. (2011, March 13). Launch of Film: Freedom Ride - 40 Years On (2005).
Dawkins, K. (2004, February 1). Message Club. Retrieved July 2013, from ABC Radio and Television: http://www.abc.net.au/
Finlayson, T., & Morris, E. (Producers). (2011). The Big M Crew - 'Moree Madness’. Australia: YouTube.
Perkins, R., Lander, N. (Producers), Perkins, R. (Writer), & Perkins, R. (Director). (1993). Blood Brothers - Freedom Ride.
Perkins, C. (2009, October 13). Charlie Perkins on 1965 Freedom Ride. (unknown, Interviewer) Australia.
Reconciliaction. (2010, November 1). Freedom Ride. Retrieved July 2013, from Reconciliaction Network:
Susie, C. (2009, September 14). On the road to freedom. 4. Sydney: Sydney Morning Herald, The.
Taffe, S. (2008). Freedom Ride, 1965. Retrieved July 2013, from Collaborating for Indigenous Rights:
unknown. Charles Perkins and local children in the Moree pool, 1965. Moree, NSW.
Watson-Ekstein, W. (1967). Commemorating the Freedom Rides. Retrieved July 2013, from Australian Institute of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies: http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/collections/exhibitions/freedomride/start.html
Charlie Perkins on 1965 Freedom Ride (Perkins, 2009)