Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Pool postcard: Moree Spa Baths

I taught in Moree in my first appointement as a young teacher (1979 -80). The pool was a focal point for the town, and because Moree has hot spa water emanating from the Great Artesian Basin, is a popular place for many European visitors who like going there, especially in winter to "take the waters".

But Moree pool has another, more emblematic place in Australian history.

In February 1965, a group of young Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal supporters, led by one of the first Aboriginal students to enrol at Sydney University, Charles Perkins, set off in a bus to tour NSW country towns, protesting about discrimination against Aborigines. They travelled 3,200 kilometres through northern NSW, inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the US and its Freedom Rides.

At the time Aborigines were banned from many clubs, pubs and other public venues, as well as attending segregated "mission schools" or subject to exclusion from public schools on flimsy pretexts.

In the town of Moree, 650 km nothwest of Sydney the Freedom Riders decided to protest against the exclusion of Aborigines from the local swimming pool. I've written a lot on my blogs about the place of swimming in Australian culture. This protest was emblematic of segregation from one aspect of Australian identity culture. After the protest in Moree, the Freedom Riders had international media coverage.

With the press coverage came pressure from both outside and within Australia for reform, culminating in the 1967 referendum which granted the Commonwealth government the power to make laws for Aborigines, effectively granting Australia's Indigenous people citizenship for the first time.

The bus left from the University of Sydney on Saturday 12th February then travelled through Lithgow, Wellington, Dubbo (12th-13th), Gulargambone (14th), Walgett (14th-16th), Moree (16th-18th), Boggabilla, Toomelah and Goondawindi (18th), Inverell, Tingha and the Myall Creek Memorial (18th-20th), Lismore (20th-22nd), Yamba, Grafton, Bowraville (22nd), Kempsey (22nd-24th), Taree and Purfleet (24th-25th) and Newcastle (25th). The bus returned to Redfern on Saturday 26th February.

When I taught in Moree, the baths looked like this

They were subsequently upgraded
There's  ahistory of the baths at this site. It includes some vintage photos. The 50 m 6 lane pool is also fed from the fresh spring water and is a constant year-round 25.5 degrees.


Kenny Montgomery said...

Pools back in that era were much more appreciated than now. These are the pools that started it all.

Sally said...

Yes, i agree.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sally this is quite unreal but the photo you have posted showing the older hot baths being the males hot pool has me in it I believe as it has Don Ford standing in the shorts who was the pool operator at the time. My Question is when was the photo taken ie what year I believe it to be prior to 1969 possibly 1966 around then is my guess.
My first name is Phillip loveto know if I'm right about the photo with it appears me in it.
I used to go to the baths twice a day and lived close by.
Look foreward to your answer.

Sally said...

Hi Philip - I'm sorry I just don't know. It was a postcard which I've had of the baths since I worked there in 1979-80....when it was taken, I don't know.

That's fantastic you are in it!