Australian Freedom Rides By Aimee GD & Lachie Cox


1. There were 34 aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander who participated in the rides, led by their president, Charles Perkins

2. There were also 3 other people on the bus with the students, Gerry Mason (representative of the Gerald government), Bill Pakenham (bus driver), Ernie Albrecht (bus driver)

3. The rides went from the 12th - 26th of February in 1965

4. The purpose of the rides was for students to see for themselves the lives of Aboriginal people so that they can do something to help

5. The rides visited 21 different towns around the Western parts of New South Wales

6. Their journey was roughly 2300km

7. The rides were based off of the American freedom rides led by Martin Luther King Jr.

8. The activist group was named the Student Action For Aboriginals (SAFA)

Freedom riders at bowraville


The Australian freedom rides were significant to the liberation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, due to the discrimination and racial abuse that was being over-looked by the Government and the wider community of Australia.

  • Made racial discrimination more public and raised awareness via media such as newspapers
  • Help to lay the foundations for Aboriginal Medical Services
  • Exposed barriers between Aboriginals/Torres Strait Islander people and the 'white' Australian community
  • Lead to the 1967 referendum, Aboriginal people as citizens, allowed to vote

Why it was needed

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples were racially abused daily
  • Poor housing and medical conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in muddy huts
  • Unequal wages, employment and housing
  • Law passed over government having control over 'assisted' Aboriginal peoples, allowing them to be arrested and put in jail for a year for 'offensive, threatening, insolent, insulting, disorderly, obscene or indecent manner', or 'leaving, escaping or attempting to leave or escape for the reserve'.


Illustration in Melbourne Herald, 20 February 1965
1969 Australian referendum prompted by the Freedom Rides
1961 USA Freedom Rides


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