The 'freedom riders' were a diverse group. Some saw the bus trip as primarily an information gathering expedition, with the findings to be published later. Others saw it as an opportunity to directly confront racism.
For the first few days, as the bus drove west from Sydney, the emphasis was on gathering information. Things changed in Walgett, a town in the far west of New South Wales with a large Aboriginal population. A number of local businesses and institutions discriminated against Aborigines.
We decided to confront the issue. The local RSL Club refused to admit Aborigines, and a picket was organised outside the club. We stood there from around noon until sunset.
At the start, the Walgett Aborigines stood and watched. They seemed uncertain what to make of the students.As they day wore on, Aborigines joined the picket line. Towards evening the crowd grew. Debate between the picketers and the white townspeople grew into arguments, then to abuse from the locals. "Look at 'em", said one of the locals. "The brains of Australia. You could buy em down the Sydney market at two bob a head."
There were a few scuffles, and more than a few threats. After the picket we returned to the Anglican church hall where we were staying. Just as they were arranging sentries for the night, and other measures to secure the hall, the Anglican Vicar arrived. He was upset by the demonstration. We were to pack our bags and leave immediately.