On 12th of February, Charles Perkins led a group of 30 University of Sydney students on a bus tour of western to coastal New South Wales towns designed to protest and bring attention to the racial discrimination in the rural areas known as the ‘Freedom Ride’. This was a significant event in the history of civil rights for Indigenous Australians as it bought them the rights that the white Australians had which they never did.
Charles Nelson Perkins was born on the 16th of June in 1936 in Alice Springs to an Arrente mother. He was an Australian Aboriginal activist, soccer player and administrator. As a child, Perkins suffered racial discrimination at school, and outside of school. But because of his extraordinary soccer skills, he travelled to England, playing soccer for leading amateur teams. In 1960, when he returned to Australia, Perkins became the captain and coach of PanHellenic in the NSW State League. His soccer career ended in 1965, when he graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts. Perkins led the Freedom Ride campaign because he was inspired by the Freedom Riders of the American Civil Rights Movement.
At the time of Freedom Ride, Aboriginal Australians were discriminated even in the constitution law of Australia. For example:
• Section 57 stated that the Commonwealth government of Australia could provide for all people except the Aboriginals.
• Sector 127 excluded the Aboriginals from the census.
This was a very serious issue because the government was classifying the Aboriginal Australians as a lesser human society to the rest of the Australians. Aboriginal Australians were discriminated even outside of the constitution. They were dispossessed from their lands, forced to live on small settlements on the outskirt of towns, and they had no electricity or plumbing. Stories outside of the house were even worse; Aboriginal Australians were not given the rights to access buildings such as cinemas, hotels, restaurants, cafes, swimming pools, and more. They were abused and oppressed in various forms, subliminally, physically, verbally, and emotionally.
On the 12th of February, the campaign started, with 30 students. The next day, on the 13th of February, they stopped at Wellington, the first location of the bus tour. They surveyed the Aboriginal Australians, their view on discrimination, and the living standard compared to the white Australians. On the 15th of February, they reached Walgett, where their first protest was demonstrated by barricading the RSL club with parades of placards and signs. The riders reached Moree on the 16th of February; Charles Perkins brought a group of Indigenous children to the local swimming pool, which they were banned from 40 years ago. This caused disturbance the community and the next day, 500 locals confronted the riders, verbally abusing them and throwing foods at them, also threatening to physically hurt them.