Black Dog Books, $17.95 pb, 365 pp, 9781925126365
In 1965 a busload of students drove through a number of small Australian towns to protest the treatment of Aboriginal people. These events are the backdrop for Sue Lawson's Freedom Ride, a novel set in the fictional town of Walgaree, where racial tensions are high. Robbie, the novel's young protagonist, is generally obliging, but he is at an age where he must choose between remaining silent in order to fit in or sticking his neck out for what he believes is right.
Freedom Ride is set in a time and a place where indigenous locals were all but segregated – the Walgaree RSL doesn't even allow indigenous servicemen to drink at their bar – and it shines an uncomfortable spotlight on Australia's racist past. Robbie is too intimidated by his overbearing Nan and bullying classmates to protest against their racist behaviour. Then he meets Barry Gregory, who has returned to run the local caravan park. Barry gives Robbie a job working alongside Mickey, a young Aborigine. The two boys become friendly, but when news of the 'Freedom Ride' reaches Walgaree, anyone who doesn't know his place is in danger.