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Freedom Rides remembered at Walgett

Siblings Des Hall and Mary Purse remembering their small part in the 1965 Freedom Ride protest. Photo TWH

Fox Street, Walgett was partially closed last week for the unveiling of the Freedom Ride Memorial Park due to the massive crowd that turned out for the event.

In a momentous event led by Christine Corby OAM, recounted stories by local individuals who played vital roles in the historic protest.

Frank Wright, an esteemed Indigenous artist from Walgett, contributed his artistic brilliance to the four panels adorning the old bank vault on Fox Street.

Through his captivating artwork, each panel narrated not only the history of the Freedom Ride but also celebrated the Indigenous river system and the resilient wildlife that have been integral to preserving their culture.

The Freedom Ride, which took place in 1965, emerged as a defining moment in Australian activism.

Initiated by a group of passionate students from the University of Sydney, it aimed to shed light on the ‘deplorable living conditions of Aboriginal people and the deeply ingrained racism prevalent in NSW country towns’.

Inspired by racial segregation issues in the United States, the Student Action For Aborigines (SAFA) was formed at the University, with Charles Perkins, one of only two Aboriginal students at the time, leading the charge as its president.

Their mission was to expose the marginalization and mistreatment faced by Aboriginal communities in towns like Walgett.

Walgett, unfortunately, was rife with examples of racism, such as three local women being unjustly locked up for purchasing tickets to the upstairs luxury section of the Walgett cinemas in May 1965.

Additionally, Aboriginal ex-servicemen were barred from entering the RSL, and shopkeepers would prohibit Indigenous women from trying on clothes before purchase.

Furthermore, the unjust arrest of two 9-year-old Aboriginal boys for a minor theft exemplified the pervasive discrimination. […]

Read more in the printed edition of The Western Herald.

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