Civil Rights Movement Impact On The Freedom Rides In Australia

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Children were taken from their families in violent ways, only to never see them again. This is what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had to endure for 60 years (1910 – 1970). This period is also known as ‘The Stolen Generations’. Racial discrimination and segregation in the US was also prominent, and this sparked mass protests and Civil Rights movements such as the ‘Bus Boycott’ of 1961. Movements in the US inspired protests in Australia too, and this led to racial discrimination being changed forever. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights were substantially affected by the US Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s – 60s. This resulted in significant alterations towards their right to vote and land entitlements, although, there are still forms of segregation and discrimination occurring that were not altered by the activists in Australia or the US, and these forms of racism must be covered sooner rather than later, and attempts by activists to abandon all forms of racism must be supported so future generations can live without any forms of segregation or discrimination.

The US Civil Rights Movement started in December 1955, when NAACP activist Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man. When the white man got on the bus and couldn’t find a seat in the white section, the bus driver ordered Rosa Parks and three other black people to give up their seats. Parks refused to do this and was later arrested. On May 4, 1961, the ‘Bus Boycott’, sparked by Parks’ dramatic arrest, involved seven African American people and six white people boarding a bus in Washington D.C, beginning a tour of America’s south to protest against segregated bus terminals. This would help remove the racist laws of the Jim Crow South and would help turn a young preacher named Martin Luther King Jr into the country’s best-known civil rights leader. Nine months earlier, a 15-year-old black woman named Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus. She went on to become one of five plaintiffs in the first federal court case filed by civil rights attorney Fred Gard in 1956, as the Browder vs Gayle case challenged bus segregation in the city. This case ended up in the Supreme Court, which resulted in the court affirming order to Montgomery and the state of Alabama to end bus segregation, which ended in the bus boycott being called off. Other protests include the ‘Bloody Sunday’ protest in 1965, where 600 innocent demonstrators participated in the ‘Selma to Montgomery March’ to protest the death of the black civil rights activist Jimmie Jackson, who was shot by a white police officer. These campaigns and protests were all carefully planned and demonstrated with peace and determination so they could gain mass amounts of attention and to raise awareness.

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Many people would know the famous name, “Martin Luther King Jr.” or the speech, “I have a dream…”, but not many know the true extent of that speech and the affect that it had to not only America’s racial laws but to other country’s racial laws around the world too, such as Australia’s. This speech was seen by 250,000 people during the ‘March on Washington’ on August 28, 1963. He knew that this was an opportunity to reach a wide audience and to persuade the public and government to act against racial segregation. At the current time, racial segregation was still occurring, and he knew that he must keep peace, remain calm and speak well in order to prove a point. The American Civil Rights Movement had a significant impact on the Freedom Rides in Australia. The Freedom Rides in Australia was approximately a two-week event in February 1965 in New South Wales. The goal was to protest for equal rights for the Aboriginal peoples who faced discrimination in Australia. During the 1950’s, there was an increasing international outrage at the way countries like America and South Africa treated their black populations. Australia was also receiving criticism for this, with the London Anti-Slavery Society threatening to act against how these people were being treated. Over the next 15 years, the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement campaigned for change, equal wages, access to social service benefits, and other important things such as land rights. Meanwhile, Aboriginal activist Charlie Perkins formed the SAFA (Student Action for Aborigines), which contained students for the University of Sydney. In 1965, the SAFA planned, with great detail, the ‘Freedom Ride’, a bus tour of western and coastal New South Wales and towns which aimed to raise public awareness about the poor state of Aboriginal health, education and housing, encourage and support Indigenous people to fight against racial discrimination. This event strengthened the Indigenous civil rights campaigns that followed in the later years.

Segregation and discrimination throughout Australia at the time was just as bad as America, it just went un-noticed by other countries. Different forms of segregation in Australia included segregated buses, colour bars, and the denial of access into town halls and pubs, they were even segregated at hospitals. There were several significant civil rights events in Australia, one of which being the announcement in 1962 that Aboriginal people were allowed to vote in Federal elections. When the Aboriginal people won this vote, they were able to vote like a ‘white human’ and had access to medical services and education. They were taken more seriously by politicians and they were given the ability to have a seat in the government. The right to vote was a very significant to indigenous people as before 1962, they had been denied the access to vote. This vote was important to them as their votes are now counted and influenced in the outcomes of the elections and federal, state and local levels.

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Civil Rights Movement Impact On The Freedom Rides In Australia. (2021, October 04). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Civil Rights Movement Impact On The Freedom Rides In Australia.” Edubirdie, 04 Oct. 2021,
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