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Charles Perkins and the Freedom Rides

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Kumantjayii (Charles) Perkins was born in Alice Springs in 1936. Through out his life he was an aboriginal activist. After playing 3 years in England of professional soccer he turned down a opportunity to try out for Manchester united and returned to Australia.

In Australia, he began studies at Sydney University. Where he founded SAFA (student action for aboriginals), him and a fellow student led about 28 others on a 14-day, 3200km bus tour around NSW, which became known as the Freedom Ride.

The tour targeted towns with the worst reputation of discrimination to redress the issue and raise awareness towards it. The Freedom Ride purpose was to take action to publicise and hopefully overturn the issues of blatant discrimination in these towns. Their concerns about the aboriginal’s health, education, living and access to public facilities. All this came at the right time as Australians discussed and debated the arising affects of racism.

The Freedom Rides made the most impact in two specific towns, Walgett where they protested against a local RSL who wouldn’t allow aboriginals on the premises, ths was where his bus was driven off the road when him and fellow students began to protest. The second town being Moree this was also very controversial, here Charles Perkins tried to gain access for 8 aboriginal children to a local pool whom had banned aboriginals. This gained much coverage from the press when the protests broke out and confrontation arose. It was likened toe Americans and African Americans in their racist attitudes. This didn’t last long as the Freedom Ride was escorted by police from the town and continued the tour.

The Freedom Ride showed violence is not the only way that other actions also result in change. Many demanding change and protests arose from them which led to the 1967 referendum being supported by over 90% of the population giving aboriginals citizenship andcivil rights.

The Freedom Rides continued and encouraged local communities to change discrimination and racism and equality.

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