He smiled at the Aborginal woman. “You were here first.” He swept his hand from her to the counter. “After you.”
My mouth fell open.
The woman peeked at him from under her eyelashes but didn’t move.
“I insist. Ladies first.”
Mrs Dixon clicked her tongue. “Now, Barry. She can’t be served until you and Robbie have been…” She didn’t need to spell it out. White people were served before Aborigines in Walgaree, no matter what.
Robbie knows that Aborginal people are treated differently than white people in Walgaree, but he also knows that this is how it has always been. It;s nothis problem though – he has enough problems of his own. His home life, with a loveless grandmother and a grumpy Dad, is difficult. And his friends are drifting away from him. When he meets Barry, the owner of the local caravan park, he has some chance at happiness. He spends his summer working for Barry, and their friendship grows.
As the summer progresses, it becomes harder and harder for Robbie to ignore the divide between the white citizens and the Aborgines who live in camps outside the town, especially as he gets to know Micky, who has also been employed by Barry. In the meantime, student protestors are preparing to travel trough country towns to protest the treatment of Aborgines, in a Freedom Ride. As they get nearer to Walgaree, tensions rise in the town, and Robbie has to choose his own stance.
Freedom Ride is a wonderful historical novel set in a fictional town but based on real events. Few young Australians will know the tale of the Freedom Rides, but Sue Lawson brings them to life here in a way that will both interest and inform. Robbie’s personal story, as he struggles with an overbearing grandmother, a brooding, distant father, and the msytery of his mother’s death, is also absorbing.
An outsanding young adult read.
Freedom Ride, by Sue LAwson
Black Dog, 2015
Available from good bookstores or online.