I have written before about his remarkable life (here and here) which features in the touring exhibition about Aboriginal activism and Aboriginal activists From Little Things Big Things Grow which is currently touring the country (The exhibition will be in Perth later this year).
this program today (February 3rd) about the life and legacy of Antony Martin Fernando.
The story of the extraordinary international career of the Aboriginal rights activist Anthony Martin Fernando, who is slowly emerging from the shadows 60 years after his death.
He was an Aboriginal man who pinned toy skeletons to his overcoat and picketed Australia House in London in the 1920s. He tried to petition the Pope and was accused of being a German spy.
Fernando was born in Sydney in 1864, the son of an Aboriginal mother, his 'guiding star' from whom he was separated as a child. He claimed to have been brought up in the home of a white family who denied him an education and treated him like a pet. He complained bitterly about the mission system, describing its settlements as 'murderhouses' -- instead proposing that an Aboriginal state be established in Australia's north, free from British and Australian interference, under the mandate of a neutral power.
Even though Fernando is relatively unknown, he has a mythology. This program explores the documentary evidence of his random but constant political activity -- from letters he wrote, to newspaper reports and secret communiques between British and Australian authorities.
As far as historians can ascertain, Fernando was driven into self-imposed exile in the early 1900s, after being excluded from giving evidence in the trial of white men accused of the murder of Aboriginal people. He believed the only way to secure justice for his people was to go to Europe. There he believed he might confront the British, whom he accused -- through the Australian Government -- of 'systematically exterminating' Indigenous people.
A religious man who could quote tracts of the Bible, he believed that God had entrusted him with a mission to save Aboriginal people from the colonial system that oppressed them.