Charles Perkins Freedom Rides
CHARLES PERKINS AND THE FREEDOM RIDE
Kumantjayi (Charles) Perkins was born in Alice Springs in 1936. His early education was at school in Adelaide. A skilled soccer player, Perkins played professional soccer in England from 1957 to 1960. Having turned down an offer to try out for Manchester United, he returned to Australia to coach a local Adelaide team. Here he became vice president of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines. Perkins moved to Sydney in 1962 and in 1963 became captain and coach of the Pan Hellenic Club. to redress it. The tour was also a response to the criticism that Australians were quick to champion the work of Martin Luther King and the United States civil rights movement but slow to do anything to redress racism in Australia. In the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans led a program of protest and civil disobedience against racist policies that denied people their civil rights. In Australia, the activists of the Freedom Ride were concerned with: • Aborigines’ appalling living and health conditions • Aborigines being forced to live on reserves outside country towns • local authorities denying Aborigines access to facilities like hotels, clubs and swimming pools • the fact that Aborigines were not counted as citizens in their own land. The ﬁrst step in each town was to survey both indigenous and non-indigenous people to ﬁnd out about the living, education and health conditions of local Aborigines. If there was an issue of blatant discrimination, the Freedom Riders took action to publicise and hopefully overturn it. Perkins admired the efforts of the US civil rights activist Martin Luther King, and he encouraged SAFA members to read King’s ‘letter from Birmingham Gaol’.
A young Charles Perkins receives a trophy as captain–coach of Adelaide Croatia football club, 1961.
In 1963 he also began studies at Sydney University, where he was a founding