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2016 Freedom Ride Gains Momentum

The Students Support Aboriginal Communities Collective on their plans and how to get involved.

The Students Support Aboriginal Communities Collective on their plans and how to get involved.

The Students Support Aboriginal Communities Collective (SSAC) would like to pay our respects to the traditional custodians of this land, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. It is a honour and a privilege to gather on this land as a collective and as we do so we pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge the atrocities of colonisation on the Indigenous people of this land as lives, traditions and cultures were decimated. We acknowledge the voices of Indigenous people within our Collective and respect their lived experiences as Aboriginal people and turn to them to guide us in the work we do to support Aboriginal communities. We acknowledge the continual benefits that non-Indigenous members of the collective receive in a country that devalues the lives of Indigenous people. We acknowledge the need to make meaningful reconciliation and commit to doing what we can to see this become a reality.

We are a collective of students from universities across Sydney who are passionate about supporting Aboriginal people in their struggle for justice.

Our group formed in direct response to the Federal and State government plan to close remote communities around the country, and in the context of the local struggle of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) for affordable Aboriginal housing on The Block. Members of the group were involved with RATE at its establishment in May 2014, and supported the campaign for the 15 months during which the Embassy occupied the Block. This struggle ended with a Federal government offer of $5 million to ensure that affordable housing for Aboriginal families is prioritised in the opening stages of the Block’s redevelopment. This shows the power of ordinary people to change things. As RATE founder Aunty Jenny Munro said “resistance will get you a lot further than acquiescence will”.

Many of SSAC’s founders were involved in the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides celebrations in February 2015, commemorating the historic 1965 bus trip organised by Sydney University students, including Charlie Perkins, which exposed deeply entrenched racial segregation across the state and raised a new national awareness of the deplorable living conditions of Aboriginal communities. We visited communities in Dubbo, Coonamble, Walgett, Collarenebri, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey, listening to community elders relating their experiences of the original Freedom Ride and the problems which continue to affect their people.

MSSAC members involved in the February trip saw that while more overt expressions of racism have been muted, the situation in regional NSW remains anything but fair. We saw that a lot of work still needs to be done to secure justice for Aboriginal people, and have decided to form SSAC in order to devote our time, energy, skills and resources as university students towards this purpose.

SSAC have just written and ratified a constitution as of 21st September, in order to give our group the degree of structure necessary to make long-term plans. We are currently planning another Freedom Ride-style trip around rural NSW for the coming January. We hope to use this trip as an opportunity to our connections with Aboriginal communities around the state. We understand that every community is different, and that in practice supporting communities will look different in each place. This could involve protests and demonstrations, but also volunteering, research, fundraising or campaigning for legislative change. Luckily, we are a diverse group with many different skills, and hope to be able to use these skills to support communities in whatever ways they deem necessary.

Over the coming months, we’ll be holding reading groups, fundraising events and organisational meetings.

If you are interested in supporting Indigenous justice and want to get involved, get in touch!

Email us at students4aboriginalcommunities@gmail.com, or contact our Facebook page “Students Support Aboriginal Communities”

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