Freedom Ride Accomplishments

There were arguments both for and against the Freedom Rides in 1965. Although it helped benefit the indigenous population, it was still a controversial affair that generated both praise and critisim from the Australian Public


The "Freedom Rides" in 1965 helped generate a lot of publicity for the Aboriginal equality movement, which led to public pressure on the government to act on Aboriginal discrimination. It exposed the blatant discrimination that were present in country towns and cities, and also helped to support the Aboriginal in taking an active role in resisting discrimination, including seeking effective political representation. The Freedom Ride and the subsequent follow-up trips also laid the foundations for the development of Aboriginal Legal and Medical Services in rural Australian towns, with some of the members playing important roles in the development and setting-up of these services.


Although the Freedom Ride were conducted for a good cause, it still stirred a great amount of criticism from conservative Australians, who argued for the continued segregation of the Aboriginal population. The Freedom Ride was even criticized by some Aboriginal groups, who believed that they "simply stirred up trouble" in the towns they visited, and left the villagers there to deal with the aftermath.

The Freedom Rides also generated many opposition groups, mostly among the white populations in rural areas. The white population in the country towns the Freedom Ride visited was used to the bigotry and discrimination that it directed at the indigenous population, and was adamant in keeping the Aboriginal population away from the white communities of the town, as did most contemporary conservative Australians. It restricted the aborigines from sharing some of the spaces they used, such as pubs, pools, etc. and made black areas in towns to keep white contact with the indigenous population minimal. The townspeople would often act agressively towards the Freedom Riders when they entered town, and Perkins described them with, ‘They were swearing viciously in an attempt to provoke the fight they all wanted’. At one point, near Moree, the bus was even rammed and forced off the road by an unidentified driver, although this lead to the discovery of the Moree council reneging on their promise to allow Aborigines into the local pool.




Like its predecessor, the American Freedom Ride of 1961, the Australian Freedom Ride was largely successful in completing most of their original aims. The Student Action for Aborigines group was able to generate huge media and public interest in the discrimination and segregation directed at the indigenous population, and sparked a national debate on Aboriginal affairs that would later lead to the 1967 referendum for Aboriginal rights. It helped expose the social barrier that existed between the indigenous and white populations of Australia, and began breaking it down through public awareness, and the lobbying of governments for law amendments.

The Freedom Ride was able to generate huge publicity in the country towns it passed through, and exposed the racial segregation and discirmination suffered by the Aborigines there. This would lead to great public pressure on the local governments and local reforms on Aboriginal laws, such as the Moree banning of Aborigines from the local pool. Whenever they visited a town that was plagued with racial segregation towards the Aborigines, they would protest, picket, and sometimes even faced violence until the unjust ban or law was amended. An example of this was
the barricading of the Walgett RSL club. The RSL club was the basis and symbol of the Australian ANZAC legend, which personified mateship, courage and nationhood. However, this hospitality was not extended to Aboriginal ex-servicemen, who were only allowed to use RSL facilitlies on ANZAC day, or in worse cases not allowed in at all. This protest was covered by the media which led to public pressure on the local council to amend the law.

The Freedom Rides also encouraged and supported the indigenous population to take an active part in resisting discrimination. A minor short-term result was the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board publicly announcing that it would spend sixty-five thousand pounds on housing in Moree.


The long-term achievements of the Freedom Ride was far greater than its short-term achievements. It helped raise Australian awareness permanently of the discrimination that was directed at Aborigines, of Aboriginal issues and of the social barrier that existed between the indigenous and white populations.The Ride generated great media and public interest in the unjust treatment of Aborigines, and sparked a national debate on the state of Aboriginal affairs and welfare. The discussion sparked by the Freedom Ride was instrumental in reforms on both the national and state level for Aboriginal affairs, and generated great public pressure on the


government to act. This led to the 1967 referendum, the most successful in Australian history with a 90.77% "yes" vote, and made amendments to two clauses in the Australian constitution, which allowed the Aborigines in the national census and formally recognizes them as Australian citizens.
This also allowed the federal government to provide welfare to the indigenous population and allows Aborigines greater access to justice and the legal system, which helped break down the social barrier between the indigenous and white populations.

The Freedom Ride has also been credited to an extent in playing a role in the breakdown of the White Australia policy in 1972 by Gough Whitlam. The Ride ended with Charles Perkins, the leader of the SAFA (Student Action for Aborigines), becoming a national leader of Aboriginal affairs.

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