Charles Perkins and the Freedom Rides 1965

lg_Charles Perkins-R McFarlane


         Charles Perkins was born in Alice Springs 1936.

         He went to boarding school in Adelaide age 10

         A gifted soccer player he played professionally in both Australia and UK.

         He gave up playing for the English 1st grade (Liverpool and Everton) to return to Australia to become the 1st Aboriginal student at Sydney Uni.

         He was inspired by the Freedom Rides USA 1961


Student Action For Aboriginals  

      Charles Perkins became the first Indigenous person to graduate from  an Australian University.


      In 1964 he founded SAFA to campaign for Aboriginal rights around NSW.






CHARLES PERKINS ON THE RIDES click on the image to watch the video

      The Freedom Rides were designed to raise awareness of injustice towards Aboriginal people.



The Freedom Route 1965


       The SAFA students were a mixed group of men and women, some were Communists others were Christians,- All 29 wanted justice for Aboriginal people.


Walgett - The R.S.L. Club


      The students from the bus began a protest at the RSL Club

      Aborigines were banned from the club

      By afternoon some brave Aboriginals joined the protest

      The protesters were run out of town and the bus run off the road.

Walgett - The Cinema.


      The Cinema at Walgett was segregated - Blacks and Whites could not sit together.


      The Freedom Riders went to the movies Black and White sat together – They were arrested.


Moree       The Swimming Pool



       Moree – Aboriginals were banned from the pool. The Freedom Riders took kids from the Aboriginal mission and convinced the management into letting them in.

       This is a photo of Charles Perkins swimming with the kids in Moree.

Moree Riot 1965

·    As soon as the bus left town the pool was made Whites only again.

·    The bus went back and there was a riot!!!!

·    Aboriginals were not allowed into the pool. Protestors were arrested!


The Freedom Rides exposed the racism in country towns.


The media coverage put Aboriginal rights on the front page and both Labor and Liberal Parties supported a Referendum for Aboriginal rights.

 On May 27th 1967 the referendum to accept Aboriginals as Australians passed by more than 90%.         Image from Sydney Morning Hearld