FREEDOM RIDE: Neville Kelly of Ballina reflecting on the anniversary of the event that was instrumental in procuring rights for indigenous Australians. Marc Stapelberg
FREEDOM RIDE: Neville Kelly of Ballina reflecting on the anniversary of the event that was instrumental in procuring rights for indigenous Australians. Marc Stapelberg

Freedom rider recalls how racism made his blood boil

THE year was 1965. A group of students, led by activist Charles Perkins, travelled by bus to protest racial discrimination against Aboriginal people in New South Wales country towns such as Walgett, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey.

"In Moree, these Freedom Riders were spat on and cameras were smashed by people who should have known better," said Mr Neville Kelly, of Ballina, who was living in Moree.

He said he was "incensed" not only by the behaviour of white townsfolk but by the council rules that said no person with Aboriginal blood was allowed to use the swimming pool or City Hall.

Mr Kelly, who was president of the local Labor branch, spoke passionately at a town meeting about this injustice, moving that a resolution be made to expunge it, and receiving a rousing response.

Students celebrate the Freedom Ride at Cabbage Tree Island Public School.
Students celebrate the Freedom Ride at Cabbage Tree Island Public School. Marc Stapelberg

When the council received the motion and took no action, he decided to run for council himself. His first move - to successfully get rid of the racist ruling.

Mr Kelly was a special guest at Cabbage Tree Public School yesterday as the children commemorated the Freedom Ride and what it achieved - raising awareness of the exclusion of Aboriginal people from RSL clubs, swimming pools and picture theatres and sparking widespread debate about racial equality.

Principal and Bundjalung woman Dyonne Anderson said it was important for the children to know their history and stand tall and proud.

"We should all be having the same rights and the same choices," she said.

The day was also used to launch the schools' third CD, A Brighter Future, written by music teacher Laura Nobel in collaboration with students.

Ms Anderson said the CD was a way of supporting students' creativity.

Ballina Labor candidate Paul Spooner, along with parents, also attended the celebrations.

It was all about freedom.



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