T H E   F R E E D O M   R I D E

From July 1964 to February 1965 a group of students at the University of Sydney planned, and put in motion, an action designed to draw attention to racial discrimination against Aborigines. This culminated in thirty of these students, most of them under twenty years of age, going on a bus trip around racist towns in Northern NSW. An action known today as The Australian Freedom Ride. This groundbreaking campaign for indigenous rights in Australia is a joyful and inspirational story of courage and conviction, which brought many Australians together during the sixties in a shared cause. Through interactive drama & storytelling, our audience are immersed in the civil rights issues of the day, and, hopefully, are encouraged to investigate the state of racism and indigenous rights now.

Our dramatisation is based on these major sources: Professor Ann Curthoys’ book “Freedom Ride: A Freedom Rider remembers”; Darce Cassidy’s audio recordings of the event, Charles Perkins’ biography “A Bastard Like Me”. From this material, combined with music and songs of the sixties, Australian slang (and racist language), the hip jive-talk and beat generation vocab of the time, Kinetic Energy Theatre Company’s co-directors Graham Jones and Jepke Goudsmit have composed a powerful and entertaining doco-drama which recreates the cultural behaviour and attitudes of the time.

The play starts with at a meeting on the Sydney University campus where the students plan and prepare for the campaign. It then zooms in on events transpiring in the town of Walgett. The characters portrayed are key people who were there: the great Aboriginal leader Charles Perkins, and Ann Curthoys, Jim Spigelman, Pat Healy, Darce Cassidy and Wendy Golding: these members of SAFA (Student Action For Aborigines) were instrumental in getting the Freedom Ride on the road. And in Walgett: the courageous Kamilaroi woman Pat Walford (famous for her “I’m black and I’m proud of it” speech), the racist RSL manager, and George Rose (an Aboriginal ex-serviceman who is barred from the RSL), the two-faced Anglican minister Reverend Dowe, and the infamous lady running the Walgett frock shop.

Our cast is augmented by audience volunteers, who are briefed before the show. They play a range of small parts: student Freedom Riders, the manager of the Oasis Hotel-Motel (who is afraid to lose business if he allows ‘blacks & whites to mix’), and other Walgett folk who get caught up in the events. This active participation is highly engaging and educational and has an immediate, positive effect on the audience: the story becomes theirs.

The play also looks at the push for Constitutional change at the time, resulting in the successful 1967 Referendum. And it examines the tools of the global peace movement and the American Civil Rights movement: non-violent direct action, as initiated by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

We are left with some nagging questions: What was achieved? Does the reality lived by Aboriginal people today correspond with rights won then and since then? Are these achievements just on paper? Questions which tie in with the current ‘Recognise’ and ‘No To Recognise’ movements (controversially, a lot of Aboriginal people today are for a Treaty and against Recognition), and with the need to address, once and for all, those areas where many Aboriginal people are still severely disadvantaged: health, housing, education & employment.

The story of THE FREEDOM RIDE is relevant to the following curriculum areas: History, Legal Studies, Drama, English, Aboriginal Studies, Human Rights & Social Justice.

- Suitable for High School students year 7-12.

- Duration is one hour and ten minutes. Add 5 minutes either side for audience entry and exit.

- The play is performed in the round. We will need an open space hall, gym, or drama room.

  Students are seated on the floor, teachers/adults on chairs around the perimeter.

- A minimum of eight volunteers are instructed by our cast to take on small parts.

  This briefing is done 30 minutes prior to the start of the show, after the cast has set up.

- Teacher’s notes with extensive background info are available.

- Costs are $8 p.p. This is negotiable where there is disadvantage.

- Audience size: maximum 150 students per performance, depending on the venue.


For bookings or more information please phone 02 9665 6489, or email us: kineticenergy@iprimus.com.au