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Freedom Ride 50th Anniversary

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this website page may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.

In 2015, the University of Sydney marked the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Ride. In partnership with the Students’ Representative Council, The Charlie Perkins Trust and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, we are incredibly proud to celebrate this historic event with the following activities:

NSW Freedom Ride Scholarships

As part of our commitment to increasing access to university for Aboriginal students, the University of Sydney has launched the NSW Freedom Ride Scholarships Fund. The fund aims to raise money to support scholarships that will enable more talented young Aboriginal students from NSW to access a University of Sydney education.

Your support can help us ensure that Aboriginal people can become the future leaders in our society by receiving every opportunity to succeed at university. You can be a part of supporting our community by giving to the NSW Freedom Ride Scholarships Fund.

50th Anniversary of the Freedom Ride Revival tour

In February 1965, a group of students, led by Charles Perkins, organised the tour to draw attention to the state of Indigenous health, education and housing, and to try and stimulate local action. Through the efforts of the original Freedom ride, it shone a spotlight on the parlous state of Australia's race relations and now is recognised as one of Australia's most significant civil rights events.

From 18 – 21 February 2015, we recreated the 1965 Freedom Ride by taking 29 current students, plus a group of original Freedom Riders on a bus trip visiting Dubbo, Walgett, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey.

University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Shane Houston said the Freedom Ride was born out of the passion for justice of University of Sydney students and became a critical part of the awakening of the nation’s conscience on Aboriginal affairs that was the 1960 and 70s.

“It was one of the key events that helped put us on a path to a more tolerant and responsive society,” Professor Houston said.

“Our first Aboriginal graduate, Charlie Perkins, led the Freedom Rides. This anniversary is an opportunity to pay respect to the compassion and bravery of the students who took part and to remind a new generation of students and Australians.”

The 2015 Freedom Ride not only commemorated this important moment in Australia’s history, it also seeks to continue it’s deep connection with communities, learn from the events of 1965 and explore how leadership and ideas can be supported, encouraged and developed today.

In partnership with the Students’ Representative Council, The Charlie Perkins Trust and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, events in each town payed tribute to the momentous events of 1965. It also celebrated and acknowledged the achievements of the original ride, and provided the first step in fostering stronger relationships with local communities.

Each night saw the local community and riders come together over a barbecue and free public concert featuring Australian music legends Troy Cassar-Daley and Paul Kelly.

To see our photos, media coverage and the exciting activities we experienced on the tour, please visit our Facebook page and search using the hashtag #freedomride50.

If you have any questions about the 2015 freedom ride, or would like to show us support, please email us on freedom.ride@sydney.edu.au

Controversial Conversation – Freedom not Frustration

As part of our month of Freedom ride celebrations, we hosted our first Controversial Conversation: Freedom not Frustration. This panel engaged Aboriginal leaders, thinkers and social justice campaigners to explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander realities, reflecting on the things achieved, the roadblocks that still exist, and the possibilities for the future.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders still experience inequality, particularly in health, education, welfare, housing and life expectancy,” said Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) at the University of Sydney.

“While the 1965 Freedom Ride began a monumental shift for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, there is still a long way to go. The Conversation will ask the question 'Are Aboriginal people really free while these conditions exist?'”

NITV has filmed this event for their Awaken program, which will air during National Reconciliation Week, 2015.

Members on the panel included:

  • Mr Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner
  • Dr Marion Scrymgour, Director of Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service
  • Professor Shane Houston, DVC Indigenous Strategy & Services, University of Sydney
  • Mr Sam Jeffries, Chair of the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly
  • Ms Kirstie Parker, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
  • Ms Anne Dennis, Councillor, New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, North West Region
  • Ms Catherine Liddle (moderator) NITV News reporter

Freedom Ride Celebration Event

Freedom ride celebration festivities ended with a bang at the commemorative Freedom ride concert on the 20 March, held on the University's Front Lawns. The night saw the local community and the Freedom Riders old and new come together to enjoy a free public concert featuring Australian music legends Troy Cassar-Daley, Paul Kelly and Dan Sultan.

We were also lucky to have Ursula Yovich from The Black Arm Band and staff member Clint Bracknell perform "We Shall Overcome" - an anthem for the 1960s civil rights movement, and young Michael Graham, aka MC Boomalli, who stole the show at the Freedom Ride concert in Walgett, rap about the issues young Aboriginal people face and how reconciliation and working together can bring about change.

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