By Ghillar Michael Anderson
February 2015 is the 50th anniversary of Charles Perkins' and Sydney University's Freedom Ride from Wellington, Walgett, Moree, Gulargambone, Boggabilla, Bowraville, Kempsey etc, but having learnt of Rachel Perkins' proposal to travel with Noel Pearson to commemorate this historic occasion, this commemorative re-enactment of the original Freedom Ride will not be celebrated for what the original Freedom ride stood for – that is fighting racism and apartheid, but rather for the people of these towns' rejection of Noel Pearson's presence. The people who are directly involved in the original Freedom Ride from Walgett and Moree have made it very clear that Noel Pearson is not welcome in our country and if the re-enactment for the Freedom Ride is to be remembered for the right things then leave Noel Pearson at home.
The local people originally involved in the Freedom Ride, their descendants and other Aboriginal supporters are promising to block the Freedom Ride bus from coming into town if Noel Pearson is present. The reason for the rejection of Noel Pearson is clear. He is viewed as a traitor and a supporter of assimilation policies. White people love him because he helps to transfer the burden of responsibility from them and creates a blaming the victim mentality.
If Rachel Perkins and the whites who are intending to travel on this commemorative trip are wanting it to be successful, then they need to talk to the people involved in the original community confrontations.
What Rachel Perkins does not realise is that going through the current local Aboriginal organisations may be viewed as going through the right protocols, but to exclude the families who were directly involved in 1965 is an insult of the highest order.
It is totally irresponsible for those funding this re-enactment not to be assured that they have included the original families in each of the communities, who met the Freedom Ride bus and supported them at that time. A number of these people are still alive and their memory of this occasion is not necessarily one of joy, because of their participation in directing and supporting the Freedom Ride protesters, resulted in severe local community backlash against them.
Unfortunately it is a stigma that has stayed with the people to this day. For example, the family of the late Harry Hall were literally banned by the white community from ever getting employment in their home town of Walgett. It wasn't until the late 1980s that one of the sons and the daughter of the Late Harry Hall actually got a job in Walgett, while the older offspring and their cousins had to leave Walgett to get a job when they reached adulthood.
The same is said for the children of Lyall Munro in Moree, for his children were unable to secure any job in Moree and most of them were forced into working in the cottonfields in Wee Waa and Narrabri, while some of his offspring had to move out of Moree.
It is stories like this that flowed as a repercussion of that original 1965 Freedom Ride. The absolute insensitivity of those organising the 50th anniversary clearly failed to give due respect to those families.
Instead the organisers seem to be thinking of their own grandiose plans in order to gain public notoriety. This is not just a celebration. It needs to have some solemn reflection on what that trip was all about and the consequences that flowed locally.
The NSW Aboriginal Land Council refused to hear Harry Hall's eldest son's proposal for the Freedom ride reunion, but rather gave priority to Rachel Perkins' submission because her cousin, Mr Turner, recommended it, as he is the CEO of NSW Aboriginal Land Council. The monies given by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council are said to be for the purpose of having Rachel Perkins followed by a film crew from which a movie documentary will be made. The NSW Aboriginal Land Council has, it appears, given the money without any qualifications – that is, if the film is distributed widely then Rachel will be the one who will benefit. No one is aware of whether Rachel intends to put monies from the film doco back into the communities.
Like everything in Aboriginal Affairs today history is being re-enacted and the script re-written.
One thing that not many people are aware of is that my Aunty Pat Hickey-Walford was the only person arrested at this time. I think it had little to do with the 1965 Freedom Ride, but more about her publicly exposing the white business men, workers and property owners who fathered Aboriginal children in the district and thereby were denying their own blood, their own children, the right to go to the cinemas or in the swimming pools.
Contact: Ghillar Michael Anderson, Convenor and Joint Spokesperson of Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia and Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic
firstname.lastname@example.org 0427 292 492