The 50th anniversary re-enactment of one of Australia's most significant civil rights events has been recognised among Australia's best events.
The 50th anniversary re-enactment of the Freedom Ride has been named NSW Best Community Event in the 2015 Australian Event Awards, considered Australia’s most prestigious events awards program.
The event marked 50 years since the 1965 Freedom Ride, a bus tour of University of Sydney students led by Charles Perkins that travelled across regional New South Wales to draw attention to racism and inequality.
Presented by the University of Sydney and supported by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the Charlie Perkins Trust and the University of Sydney Student Representative Council, the re-enactment brought together original Freedom Riders and members of the Perkins family with current University students and staff.
Thousands of community members participated in community engagement events held in Dubbo, Walgett, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey, with celebrated Australian musicians Paul Kelly and Troy Cassar-Daly performing at free concerts in each of the towns. Along with local celebrations, the event received widespread national and international media attention.
“We are delighted that the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Ride has been awarded NSW Best Community Event,” said Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) at the University of Sydney.
“It is immensely heartening that Australians recognise the importance of the Freedom Ride, which is now remembered as one of Australia’s most significant civil rights events.”
Along with celebrating the legacy of the original Freedom Ride, the re-enactment exposed the continued inequality in regional Australia.
“While the 1965 Freedom Ride began a monumental shift for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, there is still a long way to go,” Professor Houston said.
“The University of Sydney remains deeply committed to addressing inequality in Australia, with a sector-leading approach to reforming policies and curriculum.
“The University of Sydney tops the Group of Eight Universities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduations. We have seen a 39 percent increase in commencing Aboriginal students since 2001 and a 40 percent increase in Aboriginal staff.
“Sydney is the first university in the world to commit to and build cultural competence at a whole-of-university level.
“We are proud that the Freedom Ride re-enactment continued a proud tradition at the University of Sydney of leading the charge against inequality across Australia.”
Joan Hume (DipEd '69, BA '69, MA '84) has spent a lifetime advocating for people with disabilities.
As part of its record-breaking INSPIRED campaign, the University this week is inviting its local and global networks to support the NSW Freedom Ride Scholarship Fund through its new crowdfunding platform.
Health students from the University of Sydney are spending their December break working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and getting hands-on with cross-cultural understanding.