Young Freedom Riders deliver the Indigenous message

8 September 2011

Hundreds of ideas on constitutional reform, gathered from Indigenous communities during a recent recreation of Charles Perkins' 1965 Freedom Ride, were today presented to a government advisory panel as part of an event at the University of Sydney.

A group of 24 young Freedom Riders from the New South Wales Central Coast presented the panel with a message stick and kangaroo-skin book containing the views on constitutional recognition of 21 rural and urban Aboriginal communities.

The messages were accepted by Professor Patrick Dodson, co-chair of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, together with other members of the panel.

The long-awaited exchange fulfilled a commitment made to communities visited during the Freedom Ride in February, which retraced the steps of the original Freedom Ride made by Charles Perkins and other University of Sydney students in 1965.

Charles Perkins original bus tour of NSW was organised to raise public awareness of issues faced by Aboriginal Australians, who were at that time not counted in the official census.

The original bus travelled 300km around western and coastal NSW to draw public attention to the poor state of Aboriginal health, education and housing.

Alison Page, a young Freedom Rider, said the group's recreation of the original Freedom Ride and delivery of messages of constitutional recognition have been crucial in the current climate of political and social change.

"We have literally taken steps to engage with Aboriginal communities and make them a part of this national conversation.

"Over half our mob are 19 or younger, so it's important they know there are youth out there inviting them to have a say," she said.

The event also featured an address by Professor Ann Curthoys, ARC Research Fellow from the Department of History, who participated in the original 1965 Freedom Ride.

Contact: Katie Szittner

Phone: 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809

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