Redfern in the 1960s
Some of the first major stirrings of change came in the 1960s. Around this time, young people from regional towns across NSW were flocking to a vibrant and proud Black cultural scene in Redfern. A small and staunch group of Redfern activists were emerging, influenced by the Black Power movement in the US. They read the works of people like Huey Newtown, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver. From afar, they watched as the Black Panthers made waves.
Like so much of Australia, Redfern was marred by rampant police discrimination and brutality against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Police were enforcing a nightly curfew that solely targeted at Aboriginal people. Black people walking the streets in Redfern, Newtown, Alexandria and Chippendale were subject to arbitrary, violent arrest and detention by police.
At night, when Aboriginal people met at local hotels in Redfern, police often blocked the nearby streets with paddy wagons before closing time. They would move into the hotels and force Aboriginal customers out onto the streets. Police regularly arrested Aboriginal people indiscriminately and held them overnight in the cells. They were often unfairly charged with offences like drunkenness, offensive behaviour and offensive language.
Many Aboriginal people complained of being assaulted in the cells, but there was little to no accountability for police officers' actions. At this time, the vast majority of Aboriginal communities lacked access to effective legal representation. Most Aboriginal people appeared unrepresented in court and had few options but to plead guilty to the trumped-up charges brought against them.