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Transcript of Charles Perkins
Racism and discrimination
President of SAFA
Led students on the Freedom Ride
Australian Aboriginal Activist
Charles Perkins was an Aboriginal activist who led a bus tour around rural NSW in attempts to raise awareness about the mistreatment and discrimination Aboriginals faced.
It was significant as it raised international media attention, bringing Aboriginal discrimination to the surface.
What does the word 'activist' mean?
How did one man
Topic 3: People Power and Politics in
the Post-war Period
How did one man instigate Aboriginals to be given
What events/issues were occurring in America during the 1960s?
- The civil rights movement for Black African Americans
- Martin Luther King initiated this movement
- Many Australians agreed with this American movement, but didn't show a great amount of support for Australian Aboriginals.
was an Australian Aboriginal (half-cast) who was born in Alice Springs in 1936. He went to school in Adelaide and was a skilled soccer player who played professionally in England between 1957-1960 and returned home to Australia to coach a local team.
He became vice president of the Federation Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals.
In 1962 Perkins moved to Sydney, and in 1963 he began studying at the University of Sydney, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Perkins believed that with a university degree he would be able to create a change for his people.
His aim was to demonstrate that an Aboriginal has the intellect to go to university. Perkins was the first Aboriginal to graduate from University.
The Freedom Rides
The Australian freedom rides led by Charles Perkins were influenced by the American Civil Rights movement.
Perkins organised a group of students from Sydney University to form the Student Action for Aborigines and then organised this protest. The freedom riders were mainly white students.
In 1965 the students hired a bus to travel through the country towns of New South Wales and highlight the discrimination that existed in rural Australia.
- Many Australian towns believed in keeping the Aboriginal people separate from white communities
- It was therefore important that there were designated 'black' areas to ensure white people did not mix.
- Many towns would not allow these two cultures to share pubs, theatres, swimming pools or hospitals.
- Aboriginals mainly lived in reserve areas on the edges of these towns.
- RSL Club: refused to become a member even if Aboriginals had served in WWII
The council did not allow Aboriginals to:
- be in the same hospital as white people.
- Aboriginal children could not use the same local swimming pools unless part of a school group.
So... how did one man and his followers provide Aboriginals with equal rights?
- It captured the attention of the media
- The issue of injustice
- Australians who had never previously considered the issue were now aware
- The process of activism began
- This was a non-violent protest that resulted in change!
- The success of the 1967 referendum (allowing Aboriginals to be counted as Australian citizens) was the result of the freedom rides.
The freedom rides was a significant event because...
- Survey indigenous and non-indigenous people
- Discover the living conditions, education and health of local Aboriginals
Then, if there was a discrimination issue action would be taken to publicise the matter by the freedom rides and hopefully overturn it.
- Their living and health conditions
- Aboriginals were not counted as citizens in their own land
So the two main objectives of the Freedom Rides were:
1) A inclusive survey of Aboriginal life covering housing, education, employment, health and attitudes.
2) To highlight instances of racism to stimulate debate and encourage constructive action from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Objectives of the Freedom Rides
Activity: Charles Perkins Biography Worksheet
-Important (defining) events from Adolescence
In your workbooks / on your computers:
the term ‘Freedom Ride’ in your definition clarify the difference between the Australian and American phrase.
2. Write a paragraph (6-10 lines),
summarizing the context
in which the Australian Freedom Rides developed – include Australia’s support for the American civil rights movement (Rev. Martin Luther King) and other issues that had/were occurring in Australia.
You may use the Internet, however do not copy and paste!
- Protested outside the RSL club which didn’t allow aboriginal servicemen entry.
- They held signs saying “bullets don’t discriminate” “Good enough for Tobruk, why not Walgett RSL?” “Aborigines also fought”
- The Church where they were staying kicked them out and they were chased out of town by townsfolk in cars and trucks.
- The local Aboriginal population joined them in the protest and then formed a protective convoy around them to help them flee in safety.
- The story became front page news in three of Australia's biggest newspapers.
- The Freedom Riders had succeeded in highlighting discrimination and now had the press following them closely.
- Protested at the public pool. They fought to gain entry for local aboriginal children. They were initially allowed entry but later the decision was overturned. The Freedom Riders once again tried to gain entry for the children but meet with stiff resistance including verbal and physical abuse. They eventually had to be escorted from town by the police.
- The second time a crowd of 500 people, including a number from the pub across the road, gathered to hurl abuse, eggs and rotten fruit at the group. They were spat on, verbally abused and physically beaten. All the while the crowd cheered and joined in the abuse.
- On top of the newspaper reporters, this event was caught on film by Australian and international press. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) showed the footage around the globe.
Fill in the gaps worksheet
The significance of the Freedom Rides:
- The Freedom Rides was an example of civic action that Aboriginal people engaged in to change their place in society.
- They were immensely successful at highlighting racism in rural NSW.
- They generated discussion and constructive debate throughout Australia about the plight of Aboriginal communities.
- The National and International media coverage was embarrassing for Australians and created immense pressure to reform.
- As a result they had a significant impact on the outcome of the 1967 referendum.
- Charles Perkins became a national figure and a role model for Aboriginal people. He would continue to fight for Aboriginal rights and freedoms until his death in 2000.