Freedom Rides – Moree Baths

Many country towns routinely banned Aboriginal people from a range of places – pubs and clubs, certain areas of town, shops, restaurants and swimming pools. What made Moree different was that the council had taken the trouble to formalise the discrimination in an ‘order’.

Unlike other informal discrimination – which was harder to identify and to challenge – this legal discrimination provided the perfect target for the Freedom Riders.

So they rounded up a busload of Aboriginal children from the town’s missions and lined up at the swimming pool, demanding entry. The first time, they succeeded easily because the council decided to give in, wait for the Freedom Riders to leave, and then return to their old ways.

But Charlie Perkins and his mob weren’t to be fooled so easily. They came back a couple of days later, this time on a Saturday afternoon, and – as Charlie warned the Freedom riders – “Saturday night is a very dangerous time in a country town”.

Sure enough, there were missiles, punches and abuse thrown at the students. But they won a famous victory. That day showed Aboriginal people that colour didn’t have to hold them back.

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Credits and Contributors

Freedom to swim. Narration: William Verity. Paul Riveau, Wayne Nean, Dan Munro, Alwyn Duke. Bob Brown. Charlie Perkins, Bob Brown, Mayor Bill Lloyd. All our Christmases. Wayne Nean & Darce Cassidy. That’s how life is. Eileen Cain. You can be anything you want to be. Jim Spiegelman, Alvin ‘Speedo’ Duke, Troy Cassar-Daley. Much overdue. Pat Healey, Colin Bradford. Memories of Segregation. Noeline Briggs-Smith & Fay Green. Hidden Soundfields Walgett Street. Paul Riveau, Noeline Briggs-Smith. Gosport Street. Rachel Perkins, Recordings Freedom Rides re-enactment 2015.

Photo acknowledgement Archival photos made available with the permission of Anne Curthoys. Thanks also to Sydney University (© University of Sydney / Victoria Baldwin 2015) and William Verity for Freedom Ride re-enactment photos.