|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: May 5, 1998
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
The interview has been left it in its original state so that you can get a sense of how the conversation developed. The repetition of some questions, or a question followed by another question, is often due to the end of a particular tape or some other interruption, and has been indicated at the appropriate place in the text. There has been minimal tidying up of the text so that the flavour of the encounter has been kept.
I'd thought out for some time what subjects I wanted to do at university. But I really concentrated on them after I discussed it with Ted and a few other people, that I'd want to do Government I, II and III, in depth [and] Political Science. I wanted to know how governments work and why and so on. And so International politics. And secondly I wanted to Anthropology I, II and III which involved linguistics, archaeology, basic anthropology and Psychology I, because I wanted to understand people and groups and how they react and why. And I didn't want to go too deep in that because you get into, you know, too difficult areas like logic and all the rest of it, which is too hard. And then I did Social Theory II and III, which was, you know, how you deal with problem solving in the community with groups and families and organise, you know, societies to cater for those things. Plenty of Aboriginal people are involved in all of those four disciplines. And just every one of them was interesting to me and was like, as I said before about other things, like water on a sponge. It just came into me and it just flowed into me and stayed with me. It wasn't an exercise in academia. It was just something that I wanted to do, because it was going to benefit me in my future work and I planned it all that way. That's why I made it such a determined effort to learn. The only difficult subject for me was Linguistics. You know, I think you've got to have some intellectual capacity for that and some interest in it and it was so boring. And I didn't have that intellectual capacity for it and it was just too hard. But I did it all right. It was part of my studies in Anthropology. But those subjects were very interesting to me, and were definitely relating to what I was going to do afterwards. And they were. When I went to the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs in George Street as the manager after that, then when I went into the Federal Government later on, I couldn't have studied better subjects. But I would have liked to have studied other subjects as a matter [of interest] if I was not an Aboriginal person. I'd have liked to have studied English at that time, I would have liked to have studied ... anyhow, but I just didn't have the time. I had to sort of control my time, do those subjects, because I didn't have a good academic background, you know, poor education and I wanted to just stick to my limits, what I can achieve, and not get too extravagant or glamorous, or my ego get carried away with myself. But for example, I thought I was ... I'd like to have done English, because I love the power of words and that's been my great regret.
Charlie, given that you had done that intense matriculation year, but you hadn't, as you say, had much of a broader base education, how did that affect you when you came to sit in classes at university? I mean did you ... did you have difficulty just coming to grips even with the language that they were using?
Yeah, I did, yeah. When they spoke a work to me, you know, said a word to me and I didn't know, I'd write it down and I love it, because I'd just go home and I'd read it and I'd look it up in the dictionary. Then I'd start using it in my language. Like me learning, you know, again. And I'd use it. And when I'd get amongst the Aboriginal community I'd use some of these big words, you see. And oh, they love it too, you see. And I'd say, 'Well that's irrelevant', and everybody would say, 'What does that mean?' I said. 'Well this means you know ... or hypothetical', you know, and everybody said, 'Oh, that's another good word', you know. So we sort of enjoyed these words because we were sort of thinking, you know, that sounds pretty good, you know, never used them before. And I still do that in the black community. I still bring up some pretty fancy words which we all enjoy, you know. We have a laugh about it. We say, 'White people use those words, and you know, isn't it good that we can, you know, get a kick out of them?' So it was really funny that we used to look at it that way, but my basic educational levels was pretty poor, coming from primary, secondary school and then nothing. You know, not reading any books or anything. And then I do, in one year, whack, I'm into Shakespeare and all of that. And it was hard going but I loved Shakespeare, I loved his plays, I loved the philosophy that was incorporated in all of his plays. I used to ... you know I used to get them and I used to think there was so much wisdom in a lot of ... you know, in a lot of the discussions they had. And I thought, gee, whoever wrote this is just, is a really smart person you know. A lot of deep meaning in them and I think relevant, and you know, just sort of threw me into another area of consideration in terms of my relationship with people, how I look at people and judge situations and so on. So I enjoyed Shakespeare. I'm not saying I'm an expert or anything like that, or very good at it. But I love a lot of the sayings. In Julius Caesar for example. I used to read that because I used to like what, how they related to each other and how they were so smart and how they did certain things. But then when I was in the class on many occasions they'd say things to me, or to us all, and I didn't know what they were talking about, so I'd write it down like a said before. But see, with me, I .. with me, when I went to university and when I went to the Metropolitan Business College, I didn't know what a noun or a verb was. And you know, I'm not very good at any of that. Adjectival phrases and nouns and verbs. And I'm still not very good at it, to tell you the truth. And the teacher got up once in front of all these pupils, and they're all fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year old kids and I was twenty-four and captain of pan-Hellenic or Sydney Olympic and so on, and I'm sort of very much an adult person in the class. 'Charles Perkins, bring your book up the front'. So I'd trot up the front. She'd be marking and I'd be standing up there like some fourteen-year-old kid, you know, and she'd mark it. 'This is wrong, that's wrong. Right, you got ten out of twenty', you know, or something like that. And then I had to put up with all of that. It was a bit humiliating you know. But that's all right. That was good to discipline me, you know. I felt you had to have that. It's good for the ego to be trampled on a bit. And to pull you in line and be humble and be humiliated in that way. It was a good ... good experience. So I put it in that context for me. But then one time she asked me, 'Is that an adjective or a noun?' to me, in front of everybody. I said, 'Well, it depends on how you look at it'. [Laughs] So I used to get out of it by that, saying, 'Well I didn't understand what you said there. You were meaning this phrase', but what I was trying to avoid was her question, which I didn't know the answer to, because I didn't know the difference. And the same with me when I went to university. And I mean I was such a dumb-bum, you know, in lots of things when I used to go there, but I was so eager to learn, you know, I wouldn't mind that. I'd sort of go on and people would excuse me, they were very generous. Or they didn't show it. I mean for example I went to see Godott ... is Godot or Godott ... Beckett's play.
Godot. And you know, I didn't know how to pronounce it. Still don't know how to pronounce it. I went to see it and I'm waiting for him to turn up. Well the whole idea is he doesn't turn up. There's no turning up. And I said to my friend, I said, 'Well, that's a bloody stupid play'. I said, 'No bastard turned up at the end', I said, 'What the good of that?' He said, 'Well it's ... that's not really what it's all about'. And like, I didn't understand him, but you know, he thought I knew what the play was all about and I didn't. But there was another thing. I had to learn later on. So all of the university experience for me in that ... in the big discussions we had when we had the Freedom Ride at the Union. We had a big debate on the Freedom Ride: should we get in the swim or not, when we broke into the pools at Moree Baths, you know, and opened them up for everybody to swim. Where they had the kids, Aboriginal black kids, who were allowed to swim during classes, but then they were tossed out about 3.30 and only white kids were allowed to swim. There was a ban on swimming by blacks in the pool. And so the debate topic was: should we get into the swim. That was the Union, Sydney University Union. So everybody turned up, hundreds and hundreds and thousands turned up to the debate. Couldn't get in the place. Couldn't get in myself. Well I took it literally. And of course I was arguing the point in a literal context all the way through the whole debate, and they thought I was very clever. And Kirby said to me ... Justice Kirby now, he said, 'Either you're bloody dumb or you're bloody smart', he said, 'Which is it?' I said, 'I'm not telling you, Michael, you work it out for yourself'. I realised what I'd done. I was arguing in the literal sense: should we get into the swim. Oh, it was ridiculous. But I won the debate, so it didn't really matter. And everybody thought I was so clever that night, and I wasn't really at all.
How did you get on with all the other students?
Really good, yeah. We formed this Student Action for Aborigines. It was a time at the university. In the early sixties and the seventies were the time of revolution. And since then they've died on the vine. But at that time there was a lot of energy. It was just needing it to be released. And I helped it along that way, as did other people like Spigelman, like Kirby, like Peter Huston and John Hewson and all these people. There was lots of ... and all these other people that I could name. There's a list a mile long. Very exciting people with great intellect at the university at that time. And extreme radicals in the political sense, extreme radical in the artistic and the intellectual and it was just an exciting time. And I didn't realise it. I thought this was way all universities were but I think it only comes to universities one or two decades in the century. And I think the sixties and the seventies were the two decades for Sydney University, and probably for Australia. It was out of that sixties [that] came the revolution in terms of Aboriginal Affairs, in terms of the Vietnam situation, in terms of women's liberation, in terms of the Arts, in terms of freedom of speech. And Walsh and all of those people. And I think it was a great time, and I think, for Australia as a whole, you know, and we were just fortunate to be there at that time in that time in history to be at that place, with those sorts of people, who had that energy and that vision and then Noffs ... Ted Noffs, being the catalyst to release all of that energy to allow us to do things like take the Freedom Ride to where it went.
Now, can you tell me where did the idea for the Freedom Ride come from and how did it all happen?
There's a number of people contributed to that. Ted Noffs was one of them, and all of us were thinking ... Kevin Martin was another, Bill ... can't think of Bill ... from Sydney University.
Bill Ford. He was another one. And there was a few others there that really wanted to do something. Jimmy Spigelman, who's now the Chief Justice as I understand it, of New South Wales: radical Jim. He was at that time anyhow. He's more conservative now, and quite rightly so. But he was a brilliant mind, a brilliant intellect. And you know, being Jewish, I thought, well, you know, what is ... I was you know, I wasn't really of understanding these things. I didn't know what a Jew was. I just didn't know. I thought, well, what does a Jew mean, what does Jewish do, what do Jewish people do that we don't do? You know, that sort of thing. Really stupid stuff. And I thought, well they wouldn't be interested in our affairs and yet there was about six Jewish students who were on the bus. And they were the ringleaders. They were really right up front, and I didn't think they'd hang in with us very long.
Can you tell us what the Freedom Ride was, to put in context for us, for people who don't know?
Well, the Freedom Ride is a copy of really what happened in America, where people wanted to go out, get in a bus, go out there and go to towns and cities and expose discrimination and prejudice wherever it may be. And racism. And that's what we wanted to do, all of us students. And we thought, well we'll go into the country towns of New South Wales. It was the blind leading the blind. We didn't know where to go. And we were a mixture: there was Jewish students there; there was about three or four communists there; there was Presbyterian lay preachers there. All sorts, you know. As I said, a really motley crew of all sorts of things, but we all had the one common objective, and that was doing something, get out there and do it, do the Freedom Ride, whatever it meant, let's do it. And Ted Noffs was the sort of instigator. 'Well, yes, it'd be good to do it', and encouraging us, 'You go out and do it'. Even said a prayer for us all before we left. And we all thought, well if any time we need the prayer it was then. Because we were setting off into the unknown with an unknown schedule and not having any idea what the reactions to our people would be: you know, our efforts. But to people ... the newspapers were really anti us - the Sydney Morning Herald and all the rest of them very much against us, writing up editorials: these stupid mad students going out, and so on. So to cover our tracks and to make them feel a bit comfortable, we said we're going to do a sociological survey, take answers to questions and all that, you know, which is really all bullshit, because we were going to do that only because they wanted us to do that. But really we were going out there to see what we could do, and we really didn't know what we were going to do. So we set out in the bus, and we said, 'Where will we go?' so we headed for Wellington. 'We'll go to Wellington'. Anybody says, 'Anybody want to go somewhere else?' Nobody had any ideas so we set off for Wellington. It was just ridiculous - the whole thing. But we had one burning desire and that was to expose racism and by whatever means we had available to us - whatever that was. So that was pretty good - a pretty good principle upon which we were operating. And away we went. And there was only one Aborigine apart from myself on the bus, Jerry, Jerry ... gee, his nephew married my niece. Anyhow, Jerry. And he was from one of the River Murray towns in South Australia, and he thought he was coming along for a holiday. He jumped on the bus because I invited him to come along and he thought he was on a, you know, bus holiday tour. He realised he wasn't when he got to Moree and the tomatoes and the stones started to fly. Then we went to Wellington, and then finished up going ... and there was discrimination there, but you know, we just felt, oh that's a start. The next one was Walgett and then it hit the fan at Walgett. That's when it all started. And we confronted this great sacred cow of Australia: the RSL. That was when the great sacred cow, I think, started to go downhill from then on, in terms of public prestige and credibility. And we just said, 'No, stuff 'em. We're going to stand in front of the RSL and they can go and get nicked'. And we did that.
Aborigines weren't allowed into RSL clubs at all at that time, were they?
Only on Anzac Day. That's returned soldiers only. If you were a returned soldier and you fought in the war as many of them did in these country towns, they were allowed to go in the RSL on Anzac Day, march down the street, RSL on Anzac Day, get drunk with everybody else, but don't come back.
So what did you do to the RSL Club in Walgett?
Well, we walked into the club, and we said to them ... I said to them, 'I want to go into the bar'. They said, 'Aborigines are not allowed in here. Get out, or we'll have the police remove you. And take your friends with you'. They called them some names, you know. Some of our student friends weren't really what you called respectable looking. They had long hair and, you know, pretty daggy old clothes on and so on. So you know, he said, 'Well throw one out, throw the lot out'. So they said, 'We're going to call the police', and I said, 'Well, call the police. We're not going'. So that same fellow who told me that, when I went back seventeen years later to the RSL, to the same club, he was sitting at the same table, I walked in and I said, 'Can we come into the club?' He said, 'Eh, I know you'. He said, 'You caused trouble here before'. He said, 'You're barred'. And I said, What!' He said, 'You're barred', he said, 'You caused trouble here, seventeen or eighteen years ago'. And I said, 'That's right, I did'. I said, 'Here, shake hands mate', I said, 'You're a genius'. I said, 'The only bloke who would have the mindset to remember one person seventeen years ago and bar him again'. I said, 'I congratulate you, and I leave this place without any trouble'. I couldn't believe it. And he said, 'Right, you're barred and so are your friends'. And he carried on writing. I said, 'Nothing's happened in all that time? In all those years?' Whole decades ... two decades have come and gone, and he's sitting at the same table, he sees me walk in the door, and within ten seconds he's told me I'm barred. Can you believe that? I couldn't believe it. We walked outside, and we were all going ... [opened mouthed] and I was with a group of Aborigines on the second occasion, you know. And some were members there. And I thought, god, and I said, 'How can you ... what can you do?'
He hadn't changed, but things had changed.
The world had changed around him. He hadn't. He's in the same desk in the same ... going into the club there, same pen and paper and everything before him. The world is different. He is the same, and the same mindset, you know. And he remembered me, of all people, to come in there. Anyway, on the day seventeen years before that occasion, or eighteen years before that occasion, being barred the second time, being barred on the first time, we went outside. We said, 'Righto, we're going to demonstrate against this club'. So we said, 'Okay, let's get some ... what'll we do?' and somebody said, 'Let's get some placards out. Who's got a pen?' So we got a pen out and got some paper. Put it on the paper. What'll we write up? Everybody's saying, 'What'll we write up'. I said, 'Write what you bloody well like. Whatever you want to write, write it up'. So I said, you know, 'RSL are racist'. Somebody said, 'Oh, that's a bit strong'. I said, 'Well, that's mine. You make your own'. So you know, we got our own placards up and stood there. Well, you couldn't believe the reaction of the RSL club members. They were ... you know, they're rednecks, a lot of them, and they thought, you know, they're God's chosen children and they are born to rule. And they ... and they were ruling. And they sort of come to the club, saw this, and were they hostile! Absolutely hostile. They were spitting and everything, you know. 'You're scum of the earth! What are you doing here? Go and have a haircut. Go and have a wash. You're not going to have the blacks around here, are you?' And then the Aborigines on the other side of the street, [are] watching all this. And I was watching them and they were watching us, and we were sort of looking at each other and it was for them, you know, mainly. The whole Freedom Ride is not so much for white people, on my mind. My ... my deeper objective was for Aboriginal people to realise, hey listen, second class is not good enough, you know. You don't have to always be first class, but don't always be second class. And don't cop shit, you know, when you don't have to. And you don't want to have to live on river banks and in shanty huts and at the end of a road where there's rubbish tips. Live in town. And you don't have to have cocky white men sneaking around pinching Aboriginal women at night, you know. And the women not being able to say anything. And all these other things that went with it. Sitting down the front of picture theatres; not being able to sit in a restaurant, because nobody will allow you as an Aborigine to sit in a restaurant. That's not on. And you know ... and the timing was right. If I didn't do it, somebody else would have done it. And other people have done it in a different way. They've said the same thing. So it wasn't nothing genius on our part or my part. It was just the timing was right, and we were there: the right people at the right time in the right place. And it had to happen. It was going to happen. And Renshaw ... the Labor Government was in and they thought it was horrible [that] all these students - mad, radical, communist agitators [were] getting around the countryside doing these things. It was all in all the papers. And boy, did this hit the fan. The media came from everywhere, all over. And we were sitting in the boiling sun. In Walgett it gets bloody hot, bloody hot, and we were standing there. And we were all just about fainting with it, you know. And the RSL bloke came out, their president, with a big case full of drinks, big noting himself. 'Here, I'll give the students a drink to show the RSL's not against Aborigines or against the students and so on'. I said, 'Excuse me, can you go away?' I said, 'We don't want that'. I said, 'Why don't you stick it up your arse'. I said, 'We don't want your drinks'. I said, 'Nobody's going to drink any'. I said, 'Nobody drinks this drink from this bloke here'. I said, 'Go on, take it back inside'. So he said, 'Oh, is that how you feel, eh? You're smart arses'. I said, 'No, no. We don't want your drink, mate. So get inside with it again'. And did we need a drink. We could have drunk the whole bloody case. So we ... and somebody said, 'Gee, that was a silly thing to do. I'm bloody dying of thirst'. I said, 'Yeah, but that's right. We'll get our own drinks. We don't need his drinks'. And so we went back inside, and they got a new respect for us. You know, they came out and they treated us better and they started talking to us. And I said, 'Listen, you know ...' I was saying my thing and other people were saying their thing to the different RSL people. Some were still wanting to be a bit violent in their rhetoric to us, you know, but most of them were starting to say, 'Hey listen, you know, something's on here. There's social change in the air. There's something happening here'. There's a revolution somewhere or other, and it might be here. And all the Aboriginal people were thinking the same, you know, because I could hear them talking. And then they'd come over and talk to me, see. Because they never seen me before. I was ... they'd heard of me before, like playing soccer, you know. 'There's that soccer player over there. Playing with that Greek team in Sydney, you know'. That sort of stuff, you see. And so we started relating to them. And then the night came on and we said we were a bit tired, so we broke it off and we went into the church. And the church allowed us to come in the hall, but then after we did that, they didn't want anything to do with us. Oh no, the church leaders got together and moved a resolution that we get booted out of the hall.
You were supposed to sleep there then?
Yeah, and they booted us out. But before that happened we were in the streets talking to everybody, you see. And a couple of blokes, a couple of white blokes, come over and they said, 'Excuse me, could you come round the corner with us. We just want to have a bit of a yarn with you'. Because they wanted to bash me up, see, round the corner. I said, 'No, brother. If you're going to talk you talk here in front of everybody'. I said, 'If you're going to take me round the corner', I said, 'you can tell me what you're going to tell me right here. And then I'll tell you what I think right here'. 'No, come round the corner, just a little chat between us three', or two, you know. They're going to knock me out and all sorts of things. So I never went. And you know, a couple of eggs were thrown and a bit of language, a bit of spitting. But then the Aborigines started on the white people. They all gathered in the streets, hundreds of them, see. A lot of Aborigines just watching and listening, a lot of kids. And I see a lot of them in Sydney today. They were listening, you know, to all the conversation back and forth. And then the women started on them. 'Don't you tell me, you white bastard over there. You're sneaking round, coming round to our house all the time down the shanty town, and making off with all the Aboriginal women in the dark. Why don't you tell your wife what you do at night?' Oh, he took off. And a couple of others took off as well. So it just broke up the whole bloody town: you know, the relationships were all being exposed to one and all. And then you know, it just tore them apart. They couldn't handle it. So it was a whole unravelling of, you know, all of those relationships. And a realisation that they have to re-establish a new set of relationships. Aborigines, one, were not going to cop that situation any more. And the white people have to decide ... have to decide ... have to think again about how they view their relationship with Aboriginal people, you know. We're not in the deep south. It's Australia and so on. And it was just, it was just ... that I think was a catalyst for social change. In my mind, Walgett, Moree too ... but Walgett was the beginning of the social change for Aboriginal people in Australia, which allowed the referendum in 1967 to be successful. Because it got massive publicity. It laid the ground for, you know, shit, that's not acceptable. Racism is not acceptable. Disadvantaged positions for Aboriginal people in Australian society is not acceptable. Women not being able to buy dresses and try them on in shops - just once they touch them they got to buy them. That sort of stuff's not acceptable. Not being able to sit down at a restaurant, you know, in a delicatessen, whatever, or a restaurant in a country town if white people wanted a seat, is not acceptable, you know. Or not being allowed to sit down anyhow. You can only have takeaways. Only being served in one bar in a hotel and not the lounge or anywhere else. Not being able to sit at the back seats of picture theatres, only in the front. This all happened in Walgett. Walgett was Australia all over. And so it started there and from there it just flowed everywhere. The social change was on, the revolution was on. We were evolving into another sort of society.
You went on from Walgett to Moree.
Yeah, through other places as well, like you know, but Moree was the next one, yeah. That was mainly revolving around the Town Hall and the swimming pool. And the swimming pool was, you know, a traumatic experience to say the least in terms of Aboriginal kids were just not allowed to swim after school hours in the pool because the were Aborigines. That was the rule. It was in the books. They weren't allowed to swim at all. But only in school hours. In school hours they were allowed to swim. Not on weekends or any other time. It was just silly. And all the Aboriginal people knew that. Some white people did as well. But that was the rule written in there by council. As it was into the terms of the Town Hall in Moree, the Aboriginal people weren't allowed to go into the Town Hall, in certain areas of it, you know. It was just the regulations and everybody accepted them. They were stupid regulations. Very racist. And you know, they had to be educated. So we went down, got the bus, went down the mission station, picked up young Lyle Munroe and half a dozen other kids, and said, 'Righto, are you going to come with us?' because a lot of the parents were a bit hesitant. They didn't want it, because you know, it was disrupting a well accepted pattern of relationships. Even if it was secondary one, it was comfortable, you know. At least you knew where you stood. Well, that had to be all torn apart. So these kids said, 'Yeah, we want to go down there. Let's go down there. We'll back you up'. So I said, 'Righto, jump on the bus'. So we went away, jumped on the bus and took off to the swimming pool. Didn't know what we were going to do. So we got to the swimming pool and everybody said, 'Well what are we going to do?' I said, 'Oh, well, what if we just bar everybody going through. If we don't go through, nobody goes through'. Well, that was it. So we grabbed hold of the turnstile. We grabbed hold of the turnstile and I said, 'That's it, nobody's going through. If these kids aren't allowed to go through and we're not allowed to go through, nobody goes through'. Well you know, that just ... Imagine, everybody wanted a swim. It was a hot day. So they all gathered and everybody was coming with their towels and everything. 'What's going on?' 'Oh them bloody blacks are blocking up the entrance here'. 'Get rid of them'. So they called the police. Well the eggs started flying, stones started flying, then bottles. And the pub just across the road, or near across the road, all the drunks were coming over, you know, with the usual Australian sort of big-noting bullshit and redneck bastards, you know, coming across and having their say. And we were giving it back to them as well, you know. And they wanted to fight us all. And I got a punch in the back of the neck, and I got an egg squashed in my face and another one down here and sand poured down the back and pushed. No retaliation. I said, 'You know ...' Everybody was saying, 'Don't retaliate. Just, when you get removed from the front you go to the back and you come down and you get removed again'. And the silly mayor, who was doing it all, didn't realise that he was circulating the same people 'til we'd been about three times around. Then he realised, hey, I just threw this bloke out about ten minutes ago, I got him in my hands again, you know. Couldn't recognise ... couldn't but recognise the fellow, Paddy Dawson, who was about six foot four with blond hair. Paddy's been in all the radical movements, you know, but he sort of cut his teeth with us on that as we all did. So he said 'We've got to get the police', so the police started to do it all then. But we kept going. And we just jammed it all up. And then they said, 'All right, everybody in'. So everybody got in. So that was that at Moree. Later on they put the bar on again. We came back again. They even got more violent, you know, but ... and then we finished going away from there. But what it did, it just highlighted through the media and so on the stupid, disgraceful racist situation out in Moree. And you know, a couple of white people helped us. A bloke called Bob Brown. And he is just ... it destroyed him and his business. They smashed his windows, punched him up, abused his wife and all his family. In the street they spat in his face. He copped it, you know, for supporting us and he was a white person. He didn't have to. I said, 'Listen you don't have to support us'. He said, 'I'm with you all the way'. And I couldn't believe it. I thought this bloke is definitely mad. Why do you want to support Aboriginal people if you're a white person and you've got to live in the town. If you're from some other town, why not, if that's how strong you feel about it. But in the same town you got to be, you know ... you got to be a saint to do that.
So you were learning things about white people at the same time?
Yeah, I just didn't believe white people had it within them, and I didn't believe some of the religious groups, like the Jewish people had it within them. And nor did I believe some of the Uniting Church people had it within them. They all stuck firm all the way through. It surprised me, I must tell you. It was an education for me. And I thought, you know, I started to begin to say, well perhaps all white people aren't you know that racist.
So it affected your prejudices as well?
Yeah, you change as well. It was an education for me all round. It was an education for all of us. But certainly an education for me, and I can only speak for myself in that I began to look at people differently, white people. And I began to understand, you know, white people a bit better and be sort of more open minded. And I lost a lot of the hate - just sort of drained out of me a bit. And so yeah, I think it was a good education experience for me. Psychologically it sort of allowed me to readjust.
Did these people in Moree let you leave the town peacefully?
No, they did not. Like at Walgett they never did. They ran us off the road and nearly killed us. Ran the bus off the road, you know, which is well recorded. And in Moree we ... you know, we got harassed all the way as well. And the Aboriginal person who came with us, Jerry Mason was his name, Jerry Mason, from Berry on the River Murray, he sort of, when we landed at the pool, he took off for a walk around the town, and he come back and the whole place was, you know, erupting in a huge, not a race riot, but it was on the verge of. And he wondered what was going on. And you know, people were starting to ... when he got in the bus and was sitting in the bus, they were throwing eggs at him and spitting at him and throwing sand at him and trying to get at him through the door. And he said, 'Hey, Charlie', he said, 'I've just come for a ride', he said. He said, 'I didn't know people were going to do this'. I said, 'Jerry, it's not a ride mate. It's something else'. He said, Yeah, but', he said, 'I never did anything to anybody out here. Why are they getting angry at me for?' He was such an innocent. A nice person. He just didn't have any, you know, racism in him. He just loved everybody, you see. And he just didn't understand the politics of it all. He was such a kindly person. And he just ... he just got caught up in it. But he recovered from that. But he couldn't get off the bus quick enough.
[end of tape]