He has called on the Moree Shire council to publicly apologise to the Aboriginal community for its racist policies of the past, including the nation’s Assimilation Policy, which was implemented at the 1961 Native Welfare Conference of Federal and State Ministers.
“Because the memories still hurt that bad…we have been asking for an apology from the council, for [it] to apologise,” said Uncle Lyall.
He believes an apology can help the community heal and that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to Indigenous Australians who were forcibly removed from their families on 13 February 2008 proved it.
In 1965, a group of students from Sydney University, known as the “Freedom Riders” led by Arrernte man Charles Perkins who became Permanent Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, got on a bus and travelled through western NSW to expose widespread racism and segregation in communities there.
The Freedom Riders stopped at Moree to protest the local council over its racist policy of forbidding Aboriginal people from entering its public baths. The scenes of violence that occurred out the front of the Moree pool on the day of the protest, live on with him, Uncle Lyall said.
“It was a big crowd of locals and they were very hostile,” said Australian Broadcasting Corporation Chairman, the Hon. James Spigelman, AC, QC, who was a student on the Freedom Ride at the time. “By and large it was throwing eggs and tomatoes. But I was in the crowd, and I was king hit. There was no permanent damage.”
As the Freedom Ride re-enactment rolled into Moree this week, Uncle Lyall began remembering the severity of racism in 1965. “The discrimination…was a step of a stone from the apartheid.”
“They couldn’t walk on public footpaths, they couldn’t use public toilets,” he added. “They couldn’t sit at the back of the picture show, they had to sit up front, they couldn’t be served in clubs or pubs or cafes.”