• Riverbank Frank kneels beside the grave of the late William Ferguson. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
As we remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, we also remember the work of one of Australia's own civil rights warriors.
By
Andrea Booth

Source:
NITV News
19 Jan 2016 - 4:45 PM  UPDATED 4 Apr 2018 - 11:04 AM

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, a Baptist minister and central figure in the civil rights movement of the United States, whose 'I Have a Dream' speech is written in history as a most impassioned and eloquent articulation of how humanity transcends race.

Martin Luther King's life and cause are celebrated throughout the world, including Australia, where civil rights campaigners have fought a parallel struggle for the rights of black Australians. 

Riverbank Frank, an elder from Dubbo in northwest NSW, believes that Australia has a man who worked in a similar way to Martin Luther King: William 'Bill' Ferguson, a Dubbo man who devoted his life to securing civil rights for Aboriginal Australians.

Ferguson was born to a Scottish father and Aboriginal mother. In his early teens, he began work as a shearer and saw his colleagues were being paid more money than he.

"He asked his father why, and his father told him it was because he was Aboriginal," said Riverbank.

"That's when he made the decision: 'mum's black, I'm black', and he gave his life to the Aboriginal struggle."

'That's when he made the decision: 'mum's black, I'm black', and he gave his life to the Aboriginal struggle.'

In 1937, Mr Ferguson launched Dubbo's 'Aborigines' Progressive Association' to set his vision in motion. The association worked to push for Indigenous Australian citizenship rights, Aboriginal representation in parliament and end the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board.

When his efforts to propel reform were met with government resistance, he orchestrated a nonviolent protest known as the Day of Mourning on January 26.

Historian and Dubbo local Paul Roe told NITV that while Ferguson was doing the same job as Martin Luther King and was very articulate, his manner was quieter.

"It was really burning in his heart to make a difference," Mr Roe said. "But much of the story of Aboriginal people is much more low key."

He added that it was a big claim to parallel him with Luther King but their values were aligned.

'He certainly stands alongside Martin Luther King, and I think Martin Luther King would have also been proud to stand alongside Ferguson.'

"He certainly stands alongside Martin Luther King, and I think Martin Luther King would have also been proud to stand alongside Ferguson."

**This article has been edited since its original publish date. 

 


 

On the anniversary of Dr King's death, watch this intensely moving and definitive documentary, in which acclaimed broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald travels to the deep south of America to try and get closer to the man who meant so much to him and to so many others.