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The Redfern Activists

Young activists take up the fight

The band of Redfern activists, inspired by the American Black Power movement, committed themselves to fighting back through protest, advocacy, and defending racist police charges in court. 

This group of staunch leaders-in-the-making included - to name a few - Paul and Isabel Coe, Gary Foley, Billy and Lyn Craigie, Gary Williams, Bronwyn Penrith, Tony Coorey, James Wedge, Bob and Sol Bellear, Alanna Doolan, Ann Weldon, Les Collins, Gordon Briscoe and Cec Patten.

They started monitoring and recording the everyday experience of police brutality and harrassment, building a database that could be used to demonstrate the problem and lobby for justice.

They approached white lawyers, trade union groups and university students who had no idea about the scale of discrimination nor the notorious curfew imposed on Aboriginal people in Redfern.

One of the people they enlisted to the cause was Professor Hal Wootten, the Dean of the UNSW Law School and former Supreme Court Judge. In turn, he brought on a number of other prominent lawyers. The Redfern Aboriginal activists were supported by several white volunteers - largely young law students - including Alan Cameron, Eddy Neumann, Peter Stapleton and more.

At night as observers, they attended local hotels to confirm the claims made by Aboriginal people, and see whether their presence would deter police from unfairly arresting large numbers of Aboriginal people. The claims of abuse and intimidation by police were easily confirmed.

The Redfern activists and their allies helped arrange bail, interview Aboriginal people in the lock-up, and prepare defence cases for Black people who'd been arrested. The goal was to provide representation, reduce incarceration and stop police harassment of Aboriginal people.

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