Many men and women have worked tirelessly to achieve one goal; desegregation. Desegregation is the ending of racial inequality and racial separation. These men and women have fought for this through the many civil rights movements of our past, Spreading the word about what needs to change. The American Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s achieved change for African Americans using a variety of different methods. These methods and achievements then inspired a group of Australians to follow in their footsteps and achieve similar things for their countries’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So with inspiration and guidance from the American movement the Australian civil rights movement was very successful in achieving their goal of change, specifically desegregation and equal rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
In the 1960’s African American activism was at its height with the freedom rides and Martin Luther King Jr. Leading the way to a new equalitarian future. Specifically, the freedom riders were spreading the word about segregation during their tours of the Jim Crow South sometimes meeting physical opposition along the way. Though their journey was tough and aggressively opposed they did get the message through to some people. ‘Segregation was unfair. It was wrong, morally, religiously. As a Southerner – a white Southerner – I felt that we should do what we could to make the South better and to rid ourselves of this evil.” As said by activist Joan Mulholland. Then eventually after many different rides and a lot of suffering, in September 1961 the Interstate Commerce Commission prohibited segregation in buses and trains nationwide. This result was momentous and inspired others world-wide to think that they could achieve similar things themselves.
The USA freedom rides had a massive influence on Australian activism as the Australians copied their methods and even started protesting on American issues. In February 1965, the Australian freedom rides started, they copied the peaceful protesting methods of the Americans including sit-ins and touring as they were inspired by their success. The leader of the Australian freedom riders, Charles Perkins said that they chose to do this because of the Americans, “It was also a reaction to what was being done in America at that time. A number of students gathered together at Sydney University and thought that they might like to see a freedom ride eventuate here in Australia.”. By using a proven well-known method, lots of media representation and traveling around to spread the word around, they successfully got their message across. This shows that the American activism was a big influence on anti- segregation activism in Australia.
With a combination of American influence and a dose of grit and determination Australian civil rights movements have successfully achieved change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. One of these many achievements was a change to the Australian Constitution, removing or altering racist and biased sections. In the 1967 referendum Sections 51 and 127 of the Australian Constitution were altered to allow Aboriginals to be counted in the census and enabled the Government to pass the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. This was regarded as not only a Federal but a symbolic change as it changed the way society viewed the Indigenous Australians. As said by NSW campaign director Faith Bandler “When you write “Yes” in the lower square of your ballot paper you are holding out the hand of friendship and wiping out nearly 200 years of injustice and inhumanity.”. This shows that Australian civil rights activism has been successful to a huge extent and was able to make great change in favour of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. An event like this shows why the Civil Rights movements were so important for a positive step forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Australian civil rights movement has achieved a great deal of things including the Mabo Decision and the 1967 referendum but most of all it achieved reconciliation. Reconciliation by definition means to restore friendly relations between people; the Australian civil rights movement has achieved this on many different levels. After years and years of hard work Australian Civil Rights activists achieved the ultimate symbolic form of reconciliation, an apology. In 2008, the current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd apologised to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the wrongs committed in the past. This achieved reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and white Australian as well as bringing symbolic relief to those affected by the actions of the past. The reaction showed the power of the event ‘I didn’t think it was going to be that powerful. But I thank Kevin Rudd for what he said in his speech and thank him for all Aboriginal people.’. This shows that the Australian civil rights movement was so successful that it achieved reconciliation between our people with influence from American movements. Moments like this in a nation’s historical story, show how everyday people are providing a step forward for change and are learning from the past.
The civil rights movements of the 1950’s was some of the most effective movements in history. In America influential people like Martin Luther King Jr. were leading the way with peaceful protests such as sit ins and freedom rides to spread the word about what needs to change. Then taking inspiration from the American movement the Australian civil rights movement followed suit using similar methods to great effect. The extent of the success of the Australian civil rights movement is outstanding. Before the movement the Aboriginals were beneath all others legally and socially, they were regarded as dirty and inferior and were shunned from white society. After the movement Aboriginals had land rights, the right to vote, the ability to shop in all shops, drink in all bars and enter through any door. The Aboriginal children were allowed to school with the whites, swim with them and were regarded as equal. This shows that along with the influence of the American civil rights movement, the Australian civil rights movement has been amazingly successful and is still to this day moving forward.
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