Hi, my name is Mariko Smith, and I work at the Australian Museum as the Indigenous Collections Repatriation Officer. I am also a PhD student at the University of Sydney, and this led me to a fantastic opportunity to join a small group of other Sydney Uni students this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Freedom Ride with some of the original participants and Aboriginal communities they visited.

Freedom Ride: Commemorative Cake
Freedom Ride: Commemorative Cake. Before departure – remembering 50th anniversary of the Freedom Ride in 1965. Image: Mariko Smith
© Mariko Smith

"What was the Freedom Ride?" you may be asking... Well, it was a very significant event in Indigenous and White Australian race relations, during a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not have the right to vote, discrimination against Indigenous people wasn't against the law, and the segregation of Indigenous people from the non-Indigenous population was the norm in many towns. It was also a time when the civil rights movement was in full swing in the USA, and the experiences of African-American activists were very inspirational for a number of Sydney Uni students, including the late, great Charlie Perkins, who felt that Australian society needed to know about the deeply entrenched racism and discrimination which was rife in our own backyard, and to make way for change. Learn more about the 1965 Freedom Ride.

50 years' on from this ground-breaking road trip by bus through a number of country and coastal towns in NSW and just across the QLD border, the University of Sydney has partnered with its Students' Representatives Council, the Charlie Perkins Trust, NSW Aboriginal Land Council, and the Local Aboriginal Land Councils in Dubbo, Walgett, Moree and Kempsey to mark the 50th anniversary with another Freedom Ride bus trip through regional NSW - to reunite original Riders with some of the communities they had visited, and for them and the new generation of students passionate about Indigenous rights to see how far we as a nation have come since the last Ride - and to see what else needs to be done (especially in light of the latest Closing the Gap report being handed down by the Federal Government in recent days).

The Australian Museum is passionate about Indigenous rights and social justice, which are important aspects to learn about to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences today. We have displayed stories about the 1965 Freedom Ride in our Indigenous Australians Gallery, and we join Sydney Uni, its partners and the broader Australian community in honouring and celebrating the memory and achievements of these brave students.