On the solidarity bus

The Indegenous Solidarity Rides bus en route to Alice Springs.

On June 30, 31 mainly young activists set off from around NSW in an old converted school bus, for the “Indigenous Solidarity Rides” heading to an Aboriginal rights convergence in Alice Springs over July 6-11. At the same time, 25 activists from Brisbane headed to the convergence, also in a bus, as part of the “Justice Ride”.

Initiated by members of the socialist youth organisation Resistance in response to the government’s racist Northern Territory intervention and in solidarity with Indigenous people’s resistance to the attacks, the solidarity bus rides have attracted a broad range of participants.

The people in the NSW bus and convoy included members of the environment collectives at Wollongong, Newcastle and Sydney universities; feminist and queer rights campaigners; a member of Sydney’s Solidarity Choir; Third World solidarity activists; and half a dozen members of the Socialist Alliance.

On the Queensland bus were trade unionists, students and activists from a range of progressive campaigns. The bus drivers – Glenn Anderson and John Weston – are members of the Queensland branch of the Rail, Bus and Tramways Union who donated their time and skills to get the other activists safely to and from the NT.

Community media workers — from Sydney’s Radio 2SER and Green Left Weekly — were also on board, and the bus tour and convergence in Alice Springs were filmed by National Indigenous TV.

In the tradition of the historic Aboriginal rights “Freedom Rides” of the mid-1960s, today’s Indigenous solidarity buses aimed to raise understanding of and strengthen the campaign against the oppression of Indigenous people.

Resistance national co-coordinator Jay Fletcher told Green Left Weekly that Resistance decided to organise the bus rides at its national conference in April when “members heard how profoundly and adversely the government’s intervention was affecting Indigenous people, and how little public attention there was on what was happening in the NT.

“We wanted to expose and tell the truth about what’s going on, both to all the people who joined the bus rides and to everyone we met on our journey to the NT.

“We have learned a lot during the trip about Indigenous communities’ resistance — on many fronts — to the government’s racist attacks, and all of us on the buses are eager to share what we have learnt with others and determined to continue campaigning in solidarity with their courageous struggle.”

The NSW bus headed through regional NSW en route to the Students of Sustainability conference in Adelaide.

Stephen Bansgrove, a member of SA and Resistance from Newcastle said, on the Indigenous Solidarity Rides’ blog that the NSW bus travelled first to Cowra, where “we met with Uncle Chappy (Neville Williams), a staunch community leader leading a fight against one of the largest transnational mining corporations.

“Uncle Chappy gave a talk to us later in the night where he discussed local environmental issues associated with the Barrack goldmine at Lake Cowal.

“The next day we headed to the small NSW town of Wilcannia, where we were hosted by the local Lands Council in their community arts centre. There were a few mechanical issues with the bus [and] in the end we arrived pretty late, but cooked up some dinner and camped in the hall.

“The next morning Uncle David Clark, a Wilcannia community leader and youth worker, gave an informative and passionate speech on the local history of the area and his people. He spoke of the severe racism and segregation that plagued the community for many years, conditions that forced Uncle Dave to move away.

“His return to the area in 2002 has resulted in a more optimistic agenda for the future of the community … Their aim is to work toward the conservation of their history, culture and environment, and sustainable development.”

[Visit the Indigenous Solidarity Rides’ blog for more information.]

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