Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride by Sue Lawson (black dog books)
PB RRP $ 17.95
ISBN 9781925126365

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This deeply moving and at times disturbing book is based on real events. It takes us back to the Australian Freedom Ride of 1965. Influenced by the American Civil Rights Movement, Sydney University students formed the Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA) with Charles Perkins, the first Indigenous Australian to graduate from university, as their leader. A busload of students decided to travel through country towns to investigate the living conditions of Aboriginal people. It was when they came to Walgaree that is the focus of the story. What took place was the beginning of change within the social and political climate of Australia for Indigenous population.

The story of the Freedom Ride is delicately wound around a parallel story of the brutality of racism and bullying, the abuse of power, and the degradation suffered by whites and Aboriginals alike that stood up for human rights. It is also about having courage to change against all odds.

Robbie lives with his dad and gran, a narrow-minded, bigoted person without kindness or compassion, not even for her grandson. e has been told fro years that his mother diedHHe has been told that his mother died when he was three and she is never mentioned.

Barry takes over the caravan park in Walgaree after his father dies suddenly. Robbie gets a paid job there during the school holidays instead of doing odd jobs for gran’s gossipy friends for nothing. There he discovers the joys of real family life, kindness and interest, and love from both Barry and his mum.

With gossip a raging river in the town of Walgaree, everyone is blaming the Aborigines for all the vandalism and destruction of property. But Robbie knows who’s really doing it. But he dare not speak out.

Robbie’s friendship with the Aboriginal boy Mickey, also employed by Barry, is an excuse for the town’s bully to bash and persecute him mercilessly without any repercussions from his father who happens to be Walgaree’s police chief.

But this is the least of Robbie’s dilemmas. He discovers his dad and gran have lied to him for years. He also witnesses a gut-wrenching act that the two cover up, and he wars with his conscience about keeping silent.

Now that Robbie knows the truth, is he able to stand up for what he believes in and carve a new path in life?


Riveting and unforgettable, Sue Lawson has again created another exceptional piece of historical fiction. Fast-paced with crisp and precise writing, this book comes highly recommended.

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