This clip chosen to be PG
Young children in Moree are given permission to go to the swimming pool with the university students led by Charles Perkins. The children scramble onto the bus, and begin to sing a contemporary popular song. On the bus, they are headed to the baths.
This moment is described by Lyle Munro as one of the most important moments of his life, and the joy of the children in being part of a wave of change erupts in song. The joy and enthusiasm of the children capture the mood of this film, as the disruption of the old social order and the promise of a new one is expressed in the energy of the children.
This clip shows a colour re-enactment of part of the 1965 protest against racism known as the Freedom Ride, which took place in rural towns in New South Wales. The clip opens with black-and-white archival footage and then switches to a colour re-enactment of the bus stopping to pick up excited children. The footage is accompanied by voice-over narration by Dr Kumantjayi (Charles) Perkins and Lyle Munro recalling their impressions of the protest – Perkins from the perspective of a protest leader and Munro the perspective of a young Aboriginal boy. The clip ends with excited children on the bus singing as they are taken to the Moree swimming pool.
Educational value points
- Charles Perkins and Lyle Munro talk about their involvement in the 1965 Freedom Ride through Moree, NSW. Student activists, led by Perkins, collected local Aboriginal children to protest against racial segregation at the Moree swimming pool. At the time Perkins (1936–2000) was a student at the University of Sydney and the leader of Student Action for Aborigines, the group that organised the Freedom Ride. Munro was a local Indigenous boy who had joined the bus ride.
- The Freedom Ride was designed to confront non-Indigenous Australians with the racially based injustices that were occurring in rural NSW. In Moree the town’s children all swam at the public baths during school sports time. At 3.30 pm the Aboriginal children had to leave the pool and only white children were allowed to continue swimming after school. This kind of segregation was typical of many small rural towns at the time.
- Perkins talks about the importance of gaining the support of the local Indigenous community before involving their children in the protest. Documents from the time indicate that eight Aboriginal children were taken on the protest bus to the swimming pool and that their parents had given permission.
- Munro’s recollection in the clip illustrates what Perkins later described as a deeper objective of the Freedom Ride, to foster the self-confidence of Aboriginal people and show that discrimination and racism could be successfully challenged. As an adult, Munro became an activist and Indigenous community leader, and he recalls his experience of the protest as ‘one of the greatest days in my life as a young person’.
- Although the clip visually recaptures only a brief moment on the bus, it conveys a sense of the children’s experience of the Freedom Ride and what it might have meant to the Aboriginal people who were involved. As Munro remembers it, some of the children ‘realised the historical significance’ at the time and ‘were ready to take the world on’ as they enthusiastically sang songs such as Little Pattie’s popular ‘Stompin’ at Maroubra’.
- The 1965 Freedom Ride is a key event in the history of Indigenous rights in Australia and it attracted media attention to the cause. After the protesters confronted the council and pool management, it was agreed that Indigenous children could swim in the Moree pool outside school hours. However, racism was deeply entrenched in Moree, and the decision was quickly reversed after the bus left the town.
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