Charles Perkins and the Freedom Ride

Since Australia was colonised, many indigenous and white Australians have worked together to obtain the best possible outcome for indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians initiated the progress to improve and develop the outcomes for their communities but could not have accomplished a superior outcome without the assistance of white Australians. It was through the work Aboriginal activists, such as Charles Perkins, that they were able to achieve positive outcomes for indigenous Australians. Throughout the course of the freedom ride in 1965 and the 1967 referendum, it is noted that white Australians also played a principal role in providing beneficial results for indigenous Australians. Australians both white and indigenous have both played a role in the recognition of Aboriginal rights.

Indigenous Australians have initiated many protests, with the support of White Australians. Charles Perkins has initiated and led many protests and organisations that progression of the indigenous cause. Charles Perkins, being an indigenous Australian, experienced first hand the discrimination that was associated with being Aboriginal (Berlow 2003). Although it was only after he travelled to England and experienced a more tolerant racial climate that he decided to commit his life to Aboriginal affairs (Eniar 2000). Perkins enrolled at Sydney University, he saw this as an opportunity to further develop himself to indigenous affairs (Barwick 2007). This is demonstrated in a quote by Perkins when asked about his inspiration to enrol Perkins stated "That degree was going to help me ... to take a position in Aboriginal affairs ... and to attack racism and disadvantaged position of Aboriginal people ... and all inequalities that Aboriginal people face..." (Barwick 2007). This quote demonstrates that Charles Perkins was truly focused on making a difference, which led him to organise many protests and encourage many white Australians to take up his cause. While attending Sydney University Perkins was president of the Student Action For Aborigines, this was a group of students who were mostly white Australians, who all whished to see indigenous people better situated in life (Dawkins 2000). He later become the head of the Department of Aboriginal affairs, where again he was in charge of many white Australians dedicating their lives to indigenous affairs (Barwick 2007). Aden Ridgeway an indigenous Australian in federal parliament said about Perkins "love or hate him no one could help but admire the man for his passion, his commitment and his life long work in the struggle to get better opportunities for his people" (Barwick 2007). Clearly, it is evidenced Perkins worked hard to ward direct white Australians to racial equality.

Furthermore in 1965 Charles Perkins led the freedom ride, accompanied by 29 other students from Sydney University (Berlow 2003). For most of the journey Perkins was the only Aboriginal person on the bus (Curthoy 2002). Gary Williams also involved in SAFA - Student Action For Aborigines - was wary of being in towns that were not his own country, and joined the tour at Bowraville (Curthoy 2002). The rest of the students were non-indigenous and were lost in media attention as the media was focused mainly on Charles Perkins (Curthoy 2002). The news of the Australian freedom ride was world wide. An article in a South African newspaper in 1965 says the following about Perkins "..If Mr. Perkins and other young Aboriginals do develop as leaders of their people the problem of Australia's aborigines will be much nearer solution". Although this South African reporter is correct in saying that indigenous Australia needs more leaders that will help them advance into a multicultural society, he is forgetting that without the support of the government and the public, their cause is harder to achieve. The event was a success through the work of both Charles Perkins and the other none indigenous Australians therefore it is through the initiation of indigenous Australians and the support of white Australians that fairness for aborigines could be accomplished.

The freedom ride opened the eyes of all Australians to the discrimination against Aboriginal Australia. Despite the efforts of Perkins, without the support of the twenty-eight non-Aboriginal students that toured country towns (Barwick 2007) the freedom ride would not have been as successful even. Many saw Charles Perkins as the driving force behind the freedom ride and do not acknowledge the efforts of the whit Australians. On the contrary a white student stated "We weren't whit students breezing in and kicking up a fuss about Aboriginal rights we were going to try and talk to Aboriginal people and get their own version of their actual conditions" (Curthoy 2002). This quote suggests that the whit students were contributing to the cause and assisting Charles Perkins. This is also corroborated by a quote from Pat Waford an indigenous lady in the city of Walgett "It hurts you white people... to see the whites from Sydney up here ... Trouble is it's hurting the white to see other whites fighting for blacks..." (Curthoy 2002). This quote that the racial inequality had a detrimental effect on white Australians, the white Australians involvement in the rides was crucial to its success, especially through the media coverage. Many newspapers such as The Bulletin, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Mirror all reported the events in a favourable light (Curthoy 2002).It can be argued that the rides wouldn't have received as much media attention without white Australian. Charles Perkins despite being the spokesperson and leader of the freedom ride could not have gained the majority of the public support if not for the initial activism of the SAFA students and newspapers, which then lead to the 1967 referendum.

In 1967, two years after the freedom ride a referendum was held that changed the lives of indigenous Australians. The Freedom Ride obtained media coverage that showed Australia and the world that Aborigines suffered widespread discrimination (Barwick 2007). From the attention gained form the freedom ride pressure came from within and outside of Australia to reform (Dawkins 2000). A referendum was called by the Australian government. The question put to the public was to approve two changes to the Constitution (Barwick 2007). One being that indigenous people be included in the census and the other was that the control of Aboriginal affairs be taken away from the state (Barwick 2007). The final tally, though it was the predicted, surprised the Australian government, a massive ninety percent of Australians voted for the indigenous cause (Barwick 2007). As seen by the results of the 1967 referendum the freedom ride was major catalyst in the improvement of indigenous affairs. This could not have happened if the Australian public was not affected in some way. Therefore thanks to the effort of many indigenous Australians and white Australian activist, indigenous Australians couldn't have achieved their goals.

Many indigenous and white Australians have worked side by side to improve the life of indigenous Australians. To improve the outcomes for and development of the indigenous communities, many indigenous Australians have initiated movements to ensure positive outcomes for their communities but without the assistance of white Australians to would have been harder achieved. Through the hard of work of Charles Perkins and others like him, aborigines have achieved some of their goals. The freedom ride was a catalyst in the indigenous movement that led to the 1967 referendum. There has been some white Australians that have been there step by step in the development of indigenous rights, though it was the indigenous Australians that commenced the movements. Therefore indigenous and white Australians have collaborated together to achieve the best outcome possible for the indigenous Australians.

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