By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
The Lone Protestor: AM Fernando in Australia and Europe
By Fiona Paisley (Aboriginal Studies Press, $34.95, softcover, 226 pages)
An exceptional, though relatively forgotten Aboriginal activist—Anthony Martin Fernando—went overseas to campaign for his people.
He protested on the streets of early 20th century England and Europe against the British government and the treatment of Australian Aborigines, promoting self-dependent reserves, the end of violence and access to education.
Fernando demonstrated in an extraordinary way in the late 1920s on the streets of London: condemning the failure of British rule in his country, he stood outside Australia House, wearing a cape sewn with tiny skeletons.
The Lone Protestor traverses his life, from his birth to an Aboriginal mother in Sydney in 1864, to his last days in an aged care facility in World War II London.
Through scrupulous research, cultural historian and author Fiona Paisley uncovers previously unknown details on the self-professed mission that was to last half of his adult life.
Fernando was a man of the “contemporary world who interpreted the language of civilization and race in terms of a moral hierarchy”.
There may still be some gaps about his life, but Fernando was a man of many pursuits, an exponent of ideas about ‘race’ and a Catholic of the Italian church.
Embracing a transient life, Fernando’s horizons broadened with travel and opportunities for political expression together with hardships and many disappointments. Life was also dynamic and exciting.
His various methods to focus attention on his cause, from the famous Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park to pamphlets on the streets of Rome, singled him out as a inimitable activist of his time.
Fernando’s political legacy provides an extraordinary example of the global reach of one man’s radical activism, without a governmental crusade or public following.
No doubt, the story of his “protests and his intellectual treatise” will now reach a larger audience.
Edition 406, 22 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.