Just got back from four days in Moree and Walgett working with William Verity. William is a large man, a freelance radio producer, a former Fairfax journo and now he’s our producer on the Freedom Rides Soundtrails.
Fifty years ago, this February, a group of ratbag Sydney students set forth in a bus into outback NSW to highlight entrenched segregation and racism in outback NSW. With its name drawing parallels to the civil right struggle underway in the American south, the Freedom Ride bus went to a number of outback towns like Wellington, Walgett and Moree. The trip drew international attention on the reality of the issues and is today considered as a pivotal precursors to the 1967 referendum.
Fifty years later, William and I were in Moree and Walgett to scope out the Freedom Rides Soundtrails, to talk to people, ask them what, if anything, has changed, and explain what we were doing – no easy feat explaining a GPS sound app that works on mobile devices to an eighty year old Aboriginal aunty! There will be two Freedom Rides Soundtrails; one at the Walgett RSL and one at the Moree pubic baths. Both were sites of significant protest during the original 1965 Freedom Rides and it was outside the Moree baths, that the famous photo of Charlie Perkins was taken as he was escorted from the premises. Talking to prominent Aborigines was a humbling experience for me. Never far beneath the surface was a sense of the brittle race relations of the day, the heavily regulated life on the missions, the fear of the welfare who took the kids away, and a two-tiered outback economy that relied on a pool of cheap, albeit, free black labor.
Supported by Catholic Schools Armidale and in particular, the fabulous Sharon Cooke, an Aboriginal women from neighbouring Brewarrina, the Freedom Rides Soundtrails should be up and running mid 2015 to coincide with the 50 year anniversary of the Freedom Rides. We understand that Sydney University is planning a reenactment of the bus ride. This will be travelling the same route as in 1965 and, fingers crossed, will have our William on board. Go Will!
Four months after Soundtrails launched, we now have five new Soundtrails in the offing. Five New Soundtrails! We’re very excited.