Bill Ferguson is one of Australia’s unsung heroes. I think he qualifies (along with his friend William Cooper) as the ‘Martin Luther King of Australia’, but for a long time he was forgotten by secular historians and uncelebrated by Christians. Someone left this description. ‘He stood tall, with a calm and reliable manner, his strong Presbyterian faith supported his pride in his people.’ He led the Day of Mourning protest on Australia Day 1938 which has been described as the first clearly identifiable beginning of the Aboriginal political movement.
These two Christian leaders planned it as only a single event. In 1941, churches offered indigenous speakers a platform when they declared Aboriginal Sunday a week before Australia Day. Ferguson and Cooper believed it heralded a Day of Hope for their people, but 26 years were to pass before their dream was realised and 90% of Australia voted to recognise the Aboriginal people as citizens in their own country. In my opinion, the churches dropped the ball and Aboriginal Sunday eventually morphed into Naidoc Week. Sadly, it looks like a missed opportunity to stand with the Aboriginal community to me.
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