Forty years ago Dubbo hosted celebrated Aboriginal and civil rights crusader Charles Perkins.
This week, it welcomed a busload of young people on the same mission – to confront racism.
In 1965, students from Sydney University whipped up a storm of controversy when they joined Mr Perkins on his ‘Freedom Ride’ to expose discrimination in regional NSW towns.
One of the aims of the ride was to highlight examples of segregation in public places like pools, picture theatres and pubs where Aboriginal people were refused entry.
Contemporary ‘rider’ Samia Hossain said although a lot had changed since then, racism was still alive, albeit in subtler forms.
“Campaigners back then succeeded in getting councils to stop discrimination officially but it’s still around in more subtle ways,” she said.
“Class is more of a factor now.”
Ms Hossain said the group realised it “wasn’t the ‘60s any more” and that protesting was no longer the way to get noticed.
Instead, they would be chatting to local people about their thoughts on racism and reconciliation, participating in community events and filming their experiences as they traced the steps of Charles Perkins’ original journey through western, northern and coastal NSW.
She had spoken to an elder in the Gordon Estate, Ms Hossain said, and he expressed his views about politics and law and order problems in the estate.
She said he had also discussed the successes of Aboriginal circle sentencing.
“Our plan is to screen these vox pops back to the people of Dubbo down the track so they can see what people in their own town think,” she said.
The group will spend two weeks on the road and plans to make a documentary about the trip.
“We wanted to use this as a platform to take stock of what’s happened in the last 40 years,” Ms Hossain said.
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