Further Reading

See the AIATSIS Explore page to learn more about the 1965 Freedom Ride.

Want to learn more about the Aboriginal Tent Embassy? See our Digital Classroom module Direct Action.

See the National Museum of Australia’s Digital Classroom Defining Moments module Cronulla Race Riots.

Civil rights for some Australians have only been earned after many years of protest and advocacy. While there have been many protests for civil rights in Australia, this section will focus on what the Library has material to provide information on. Below you will find information about the Aboriginal Day of Mourning, the Freedom Ride, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy protest, Change the Date protest, the Cronulla Riots, protests against Refugee Detention, the Black Lives Matter protests and Covid-19 protests.

The Freedom Ride 1965

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Robert McFarlane, Charles Perkins travelling to University, 1963
Charles Perkins travelling to University, 1963 [picture] / Robert McFarlane, nla.cat-vn1626174

In 1965 Charlie Perkins led a group of university students from the University of Sydney across regional NSW, protesting the treatment of First Australians in regional towns in what was known as the Freedom Ride. The Freedom Rids became one of the most important protests of its time, exposing the systematic racism in regional NSW. It even inspired singer-songwriter Troy Cassar-Daley to write his song ‘Freedom Ride’.

The National Library has a large collection a material about the Freedom Ride, including numerous audio recordings of interviews and manuscript materials. For example, the Papers of Charles Perkins hold a range of documents from his time as an activist and secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Additionally, the Library also holds an audio recording of Ann Curthoys interviewed by Susan Mardesn. Ann Curthoys was a participant of the Freedom Ride and recorded the events in her diaries.

Here are some search terms that you might use in our Catalogue or Trove:

  • Freedom Rides 1965
  • Charles Perkins
  • Ann Curthoys

It is important to keep in mind the historical nature of the material in question, which may include terms and language that may be seen as offensive.

Aboriginal Tent Embassy Protest

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Demonstration with 'We want land not handouts' placard at land rights demonstration, Parliament House, Canberra, 30 July 1972
[Demonstration with 'We want land not handouts' placard at land rights demonstration, Parliament House, Canberra, 30 July 1972] [picture] / Ken Middleton, nla.cat-vn3256026.

On 26th January 1972, Michael Anderson, Billy Craigie, Tony Coorey and Bertie Williams placed a beach umbrella on the lawns of Old Parliament House (then the Parliament building) and named it the Aboriginal Embassy. Their actions were in protest to the refusal of the government at the time to recognise First Australia land rights. From here, the protest grew and the umbrella was replaced by numerous tents and a large following.

Today, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy still stands as a continuing protest for the rights of First Australians. The National Library has collected a substantial number of related materials over the years, with a large collection of pictures, ephemera, journals and newsletters.

One of the more interesting collection items is the Aboriginal Embassy: ephemera material collected by the National Library of Australia. This item holds a collection of advertising material, area guides, booklets, brochures, samples of merchandise postcards, posters, programs, stickers and tickets from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. There is also a range of audio recordings of interviews with participants of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, such as Pat Eatock.

Here are some search terms that you might use in our Catalogue or Trove:

  • Aboriginal Tent Embassy 1972
  • Aboriginal Embassy
  • Ken Middleton
  • Tony Coorey
  • Billy Craigie

It is important to keep in mind the historical nature of the material in question, which may include terms and language that may be seen as offensive.

The Cronulla Riots

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Hundreds of rioters run up Cronulla Street for the Cronulla Railway station where an attack on men of Middle eastern appearance followed, during the race riots in Cronulla, 11 December 2005
Hundreds of rioters run up Cronulla Street for the Cronulla Railway station where an attack on men of Middle eastern appearance followed, during the race riots in Cronulla, 11 December 2005 [picture] / Andrew Quilty, nla.cat-vn6099357.

On the 11th December 2005, five thousand people gathered on Cronulla Beach, Sydney. The riot was initially in response to an assault on three lifesavers days prior, but was further incited by the media and some nationalist political groups. Known as the Cronulla Riots, violence towards people of ‘Middle-Eastern appearance’ spread from Cronulla to surrounding suburbs over a period of three days.

The National Library has a unique collection of material from the Cronulla Riots, with materials from our digitised newspaper collection, pictures collection and Eresources. For example, The Australian Jewish News covered the events of the Cronulla Riots and provide an excellent resource to gain insights into the events leading up to the race riots. Another great newspaper resource is NewsBank, which can be accessed from home through our eResources page using your Library Card login. Here you can find numerous other articles from Australian newspapers that cover the Cronulla Riots.

Here are some search terms that you might use in our Catalogue or Trove:

  • Cronulla Riots
  • Cronulla Race Riots
  • Andrew Quilty Cronulla Riots

There are also some useful subject headings used in our catalogue:

Black Lives Matter Protest

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Protester Tanesha Bennell holding a megaphone at the Black Lives Matter protest rally, Perth, Western Australia, 2020
Protester Tanesha Bennell holding a megaphone at the Black Lives Matter protest rally, Perth, Western Australia, 2020 / Philip Gostelow, nla.cat-vn8543294.

Following the death of George Floyd in the United States, protests against institutionalised racism in the US gained momentum. On the 5th June 2020, Black Lives Matter protests were organised across Australia’s major cities. The rallies protested the continuing rise of Indigenous Australian deaths in custody and the lack of implementation of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations.

The National Library is continuing to expand its collection on this topic, with materials found in our pictures collection and through the Australian Web Archive. For example, there are various webpage snapshots found under the Black Lives Matter movement,  from the official website through to ABC website reports. Additionally, the pictures from Philip Gostelow are another great resource, with many taken during the protests.

Here are some search terms that you might use in our Catalogue or Trove:

It can also be helpful to look more broadly at material with subject headings such as Aboriginal Australians, Treatment of. and Race discrimination -- Australia. 

Aboriginal Day of Mourning 1938

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Aborigines claim citizen rights!
Aborigines claim citizen rights! : a statement of the case for the Aborigines Progressive Association / by J.T. Patten and W. Ferguson, nla.cat-vn1893026.

The Aboriginal Day of Mourning was held on the 26th of January 1938, during the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet. The event was a protest to the discrimination and marginalization faced by all First Australians at the time, led by Jack Patten, William Ferguson, and William Cooper.

The National Library holds some interesting collection material for the Aboriginal Day of Mourning, including some of the original flyers used to advertise the event.

When researching this subject it is important to keep in mind the historical nature of the material in question, which may include terms and language that may be seen as offensive. Here are some search terms that you might use in our Catalogue or Trove:

  • Aboriginal Day of Mourning 1938
  • Aborigines Conference 1938
  • Aborigines Progressive Association
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Australian Aborigines Conference: sesqui-centenary Day of Mourning and Protest
Australian Aborigines Conference: sesqui-centenary Day of Mourning and Protest to be held in the Australian Hall, Sydney ... on Wednesday, 26th January 1938 (Australia Day) ...: nla.cat-vn681420