Confronting Segregation - Walgett Cinema
The bus trip continued for a week after Moree, heading to the coast then back towards Sydney. There were similar scenes along the way, but less violence than at Walgett and Moree. The Freedom Ride continued as front page news for another week.
In the weeks following we were struck by a cartoon by Bruce Petty in The Australian. It showed a couple of Aborigines looking forlornly around their collection of huts as the students disappeared in a cloud of dust.
It was clear that we could not just go back to our studies and leave things as they were. Alliances were formed with Aboriginal groups in some of the towns we had visited. Walgett had one of the best organised communities, and a branch of the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA) had been formed there. Activity centred around attempts to desegregate the Luxury Theatre, and the Oasis Hotel. Harry Hall, President of the APA, stood for the local council.
In August 1965 a combined SAFA/APA group challenged the segregation of the cinema. Four students and two Aboriginal women were arrested. According to Peter Read, the biographer of Charles Perkins, this was the first time Aborigines had been arrested in a civil rights demonstration.
After a long struggle, led now by the APA, the cinema was desegregated. So too was the Oasis hotel. Ironically, the Aboriginal community later purchased the Oasis.