William Ferguson: The life of an Aboriginal rebel

by Gavin Stanbrook and Diane Fieldes • Published 20 July 2019


Hidden or ignored within the history of Australia since invasion is a whole history of Aboriginal resistance. Important research like that embodied in Professor Gary Foley’s Koori History Website[1] is a major resource for anyone who supports this resistance. The life of William (Bill) Ferguson is part of that history that should see the light of day. There is another hidden history in this country as well, that of working class struggle and resistance, in which Ferguson, like numerous other working class Aboriginal activists, played a significant role. This article is an attempt to both analyse and celebrate his role in those struggles.[2]

It is now over 80 years since the Day of Mourning, 26 January 1938, the path-breaking forerunner of today’s large Invasion Day protests. It was a protest for civil rights, led by Aboriginal activists. The Day of Mourning is bound up with the life stories and struggles of big names in Aboriginal politics – Pearl Gibbs, Jack Patten, William Cooper and John Kinchela to name a few. They all deserve an individual article in their own right. Insofar as Ferguson has entered popular consciousness at all (largely through his place in the iconic photograph of the organisers), it is as one of the leaders of this protest. But his life cannot be summed up in that one day. He also established and led branches of the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA) across NSW to organise and fight for Aboriginal rights. He was a tireless advocate for those rights in any forum where he could get a hearing. What is even less well known is his history as a working class union militant in the shearing sheds and dole jobs and the impact this had on his approach to fighting for Aboriginal rights.

William Ferguson (left) on the Day of Mourning, Sydney, 26 January 1938.

Ferguson’s early life

William Ferguson was a Wiradjuri man born on 24 July 1882 at Waddai, Darlington Point in western NSW. He was born to Scottish station labourer William Ferguson, known as “Old Bill”, and Emily Ferguson (formerly Ford), an Aboriginal domestic worker. Ferguson was raised with his six siblings in a region dominated by the pastoral industry, a booming sector that relied on the mass theft of Aboriginal land for the creation of stations and for staffing the wealthy households of their owners.

Ferguson was a staunch Christian,[3] but he had a healthy disdain for the missionaries and clergy who brandished themselves as the white saviours of the “beastly Aboriginies”. He rightly saw them as the people who did the dirty work of the Aborigines Protection Board and the government. As fellow Christians, he regarded them as ineffective evangelists because they were alienating and patronising to Aboriginal people.[4]

On the other hand, from an early age Ferguson drew closer to left wing organisations through his involvement in the labour movement. He joined the Australian Labor Party, and interacted with left wing Christians, progressive feminist groups and the broad Australian left, most notably the NSW branch of the Communist Party and the left unions they operated in.[5]

To understand Ferguson’s politics, we have to understand the era in which he was born and lived through, one of both intense racism and class struggle. The late nineteenth century was a time of consolidation of an expanding Australian capitalism and a hardening of the racist policies towards Aboriginal people that came with it. It might seem contradictory, but both segregation and assimilation were the order of the day, exemplified by the policies put forward by the anthropologists who “advised” the government. The main causes of Aboriginal oppression at this time stemmed from the drive for profit of the pastoral bosses, whose aims to expand the now very profitable international industry of which they were part could not be achieved while Aboriginal people occupied and claimed their rightful custodianship and control over land. Second came the vast amount of cheap and in many cases slave labour that displaced Aboriginal people could be used for, to the benefit of the same pastoral bosses who stole the land.

This lust for profit led to the implementation in the late 1800s of legislation such as the Half Caste Acts of Victoria and Western Australia which destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of Aboriginal people. In NSW the Aborigines Protection Board (APB) was set up in 1883 to dictate most aspects of life for Aboriginal people under state control, and these powers were enshrined in the NSW Aborigines Protection Act in 1909. The most rabid policies of the APB came through the form known to Aboriginal people as the Dog Act (amendments to the Act made in 1936), which basically gave the state even more rights to steal Aboriginal children and otherwise uproot the lives of Aboriginal people by force, either to confine them to reserves, or to secure a cheap workforce, or both.[6] It was a gross injustice that remained a burning motivation for Ferguson’s political activism up until his passing in 1950.

Massacres of Aboriginal people were still occurring during this period. Ferguson was already 44 years old when in 1926 two WA police constables led a white mob to Oombulgurri where they murdered over a dozen Aboriginal men, women and children, a crime now known as the Forrest River massacre. The police and other state agencies had a monopoly on violence, and in NSW they used it to terrorise the Aboriginal population in order to uproot them from potentially profitable pastoral land. Of relevance to Ferguson’s life was the fact that this was happening in north-west NSW around the time of his birth.[7]

This push coincided with the elevation in the realm of Aboriginal policy of anthropologists. Anthropologists would provide the ideological framework and justification for the government’s Aboriginal policy, basically an “intellectual” justification for extreme racism. In the late nineteenth century this consisted largely of ethnographic accounts, of varying degrees of luridness, of a way of life that all of them agreed was dying out.[8] However their role was ramped up from the 1930s, both as a response to “reform” that was forced on the APB through Aboriginal resistance, and government attempts to find arguments that suited the interests of the pastoral bosses. The most prominent of the anthropologists in service of the government were Professor A.P. Elkin and his student Caroline Kelly. They argued, to the state’s delight, that precisely because there was still culture and identity among Aboriginal people in NSW, the state had to intensify their intervention in Aboriginal lives, to assimilate Aboriginal people from what they characterised as a backward way of life. They argued for the concentration via segregation of Aboriginal communities onto small reserves – an argument which very much fit with the interests of the government who wanted to clear the land of Aboriginal people. Insofar as they were concerned with the lives and demands of Aboriginal people, their role was to convince them to accept the strictures that the government wanted to impose. As Elkin said of PNG as well as Australia, “the more we know of these peoples, the better we can govern them”.[9]

Ferguson was extremely hostile to the anthropologists, saying of them in 1937:

We do not want anthropological studies and books about the length of our toenails and the size of our heads … You have taken everything away from us but given us nothing in exchange. Is that right? As one of your scholars has said, you owe us not benevolence, but atonement.[10]

This intense racism only pushed Ferguson further to the left, but it wasn’t just this state-sponsored racism, with its intensification in the 1930s, that shaped his ideas.

Early class struggle

Ferguson also grew up during the period of the Great Strikes of the 1890s, mass struggles by workers under intense pressure from bosses who wanted to claw back wages and working conditions won by unions. The 1890s was the first “Great Depression”, and as always, the bosses wanted the working class to shoulder the burden of the economic crisis. From the wharfies and shearers to the miners and labourers, class struggle was in the air and Ferguson was not immune to its empowering force.

The impact of these mass strikes on Ferguson was not only because his father worked in the shearing sheds, but also because Ferguson himself had started working in the sheds at the age of 14 in 1896, collecting and piling wool. It was in the shearing sheds that Ferguson would earn his stripes in the labour movement. He very quickly became a known orator and agitator in the sheds. Jack Horner, Communist Party author and Aboriginal rights campaigner, described Ferguson and Old Bill: “The athletic, chunky Scot and his dark skinned son, who grew like a beanstalk, tall and erect, surprising the older men with his persuasive talk”. Ferguson remained in the industry with his brothers and father until he left town in the late 1890s after his father remarried.[11]

Ferguson then travelled western NSW, moving from stockyard to shearing shed in search of work. Not much is heard of him during this period, only a few old union tickets give some idea of where he stopped on his travels. It was in 1916 that he would resurface, settling with his family at Gulargambone. There he officially joined the Labor Party, although he had already been subscribing to the ALP newspaper the Labor Daily since the early twentieth century.[12] He did not just join. Ferguson re-formed the local ALP branch, and a new Trades and Labour Council, and was its secretary for two years. During this period he was part of the mass working class campaign against the introduction of conscription for the war.[13]

The fact that Ferguson joined the ALP needs some comment: after all, the ALP is renowned for its racist anti-refugee policies, for supporting and extending the Northern Territory intervention against Aboriginal communities and much more. And it was no better then – supporting the White Australia policy, for example. But it was linked to the working class in a way no other major political party was, through the trade union officials. For political workers like Ferguson, Labor had a connection, through the unions, to their desire to fight for a better deal. Added to that, the unions for much of this period of Ferguson’s early life were both organised and militant.

It must be said that the ALP was always wedded to the running of Australian capitalism and so the support given by Labor on a parliamentary level to the work of Aboriginal activists and the trade unions was limited by the ALP’s unwillingness to push against the bosses of the pastoral sector and industry more generally. We’ll see where this ended up at the conclusion of Ferguson’s life.

From 1916 into the 1920s Ferguson remained active in the labour movement. In 1920-24 he worked as mailman between Quambone and Gular, but then returned to shearing. From 1928 he took labouring jobs, speaking in his union for reform of government relief work.[14] At some point during this period, Ferguson gained relief work in Cabramatta in Sydney and involved himself in unemployed workers’ politics. He was fired after speaking at a stop-work meeting in support of rights for unemployed workers.[15]

This period of engagement in class politics going back to the 1890s is important; it was here that Ferguson honed his political leadership, developed as a unionist and forged connections with others on the left. As he became more and more involved in the struggle for Aboriginal rights, he used his connections to working class organisations such as the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) to further the cause of Aboriginal people.

It is no surprise that the CPA was a significant supporter in the fight for Aboriginal rights. After a sluggish start – for which they were criticised by the Communist International (Comintern) in 1928 – the party attempted to put into practice organising solidarity among the oppressed and exploited to overthrow capitalism, seeing themselves, in Lenin’s words, as the “tribune of the oppressed”. The interaction between Aborigines and Communists only grew as more and more Aboriginal people moved into the industrial workforce. Even while the CPA and the Communist International were in the process of Stalinisation, the party continued to forge links with Aboriginal militants. Figures like Norman Jeffries, the CPA activist who was an organiser for the Pastoral Workers Industrial Union, worked with the unemployed movement and took on assignments to investigate the appalling treatment of Aboriginal people by the APB to report on it in the Workers Weekly and organise support for their cause.[16] In 1931 the CPA adopted a Draft Program on Aborigines which called for equal rights, political autonomy and land rights. In 1932, Aboriginal activists and the CPA-influenced Unemployed Workers Movement in Dubbo joined forces to protest the refusal of rations to Aboriginal people, and campaigned for the abolition of the Protection Board. Similar alliances around similar demands across NSW resulted in stopworks, protests and strikes, including at Wallaga Lake, Menindee, Burnt Bridge, Brewarrina and Purfleet between 1936 and 1938. Bill Ferguson settled in Dubbo in 1933 and forged good relations with the unemployed workers’ organisers.[17]

The CPA would also play a significant role in drafting motions and demands in the union movement in the lead up to the 1938 Day of Mourning protest. They organised for Aboriginal activists to speak at union meetings and demand solidarity, such as the adoption in 1933 of a resolution by the NSW Labour Council that supported Aboriginal control over “tribal sanctuaries”. Ferguson addressed a meeting of the Labour Council in October 1937. It was after this speech that Tom Wright, CPA member and secretary of the Sheet Metal Workers Union, moved a motion calling for the NSW Labour Council to pledge full support for the APA and adopt “a detailed policy on Aborigines … calling for full social and political rights, award wages, full unemployment benefits, abolition of all indenture, and the abolition of homes or missions … full representation on the Aborigines Protection Board … and land rights”.[18]

The Aborigines Progressive Association

The increasing abusive powers of the APB were a key factor in Ferguson’s organising activities.

Ferguson had been aware since the early 1920s of the control imposed on the Aboriginal people by the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board, which expected Aborigines of mixed descent to “absorb” into society, and others to die out. … When parliament amended the Aborigines Protection Act (1909) in 1936 to increase the powers of the Board, Ferguson began organizing the “dark people”. On 27 June 1937 he launched the Aborigines’ Progressive Association at Dubbo, opening branches later on reserves.[19]

Ferguson organised five annual conferences in country towns. With Pearl Gibbs, Herbert Groves, William Onus and some white supporters, Ferguson argued for the policies that the APA took up.

The APA was just one of three main Aboriginal-only organisations that existed to champion the fight for black rights in this period. The two other main organisations were the Australian Aboriginal League formed under William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association led by Jack Patten. The main demands of all three were an end to the racist unemployment benefit system which in most cases denied Aboriginal people any access to it throughout the mass unemployment of the 1930s Great Depression, and the complete abolition of the Aborigines Protection Board and the appalling conditions that Aboriginal people were forced to endure on APB missions and reserves.

The APA demands were for equal rights, an immediate end to the removal of Aboriginal children, and full citizenship rights. In other words, the same political rights, legal position, access to social service benefits and educational opportunities as other Australians. (It is worth noting that during the Depression, a lot more people were categorised as Aboriginal. One reason was because it saved money on unemployment rations.[20]) The APA criticised the protectionist policies and practices of governments and rejected, at least in part, the racial assumptions upon which these were based. They attacked discriminatory legislation and government control over Aboriginal lives and called upon the Commonwealth to take over control from the states and introduce a uniform policy for Aboriginal people.[21]

There were two wings of the APA, divided both regionally and politically, while continuing to cooperate. Pearl Gibbs and Bill Ferguson’s APA was based around Dubbo and western NSW communities. The other was based in coastal communities, led by Jack Patten, and not aligned with the left. Politically, Ferguson’s organisation’s support from non-Aboriginal people came from the left, reflecting Ferguson’s long relationship with the Australian Workers Union and close connections with the ALP and the unemployed workers’ organisations, and their relationships with the CPA. Both wings emphasised Aboriginal control of their respective APAs.[22] Yet non-Aboriginal support was crucial.[23]

Taking on the Protection Board

These alliances were important in the context of the battle that needed to be waged against the Protection Board. The Aborigines Protection Board was the bureaucracy that implemented state government policy in relation to Aboriginal people. It was known as the “persecution board” or the “destruction board” in the Aboriginal community, and was widely hated. Ferguson was one of the most active and outspoken dissidents towards its practices, calling for its complete abolition – “Surely we cannot make a worse job of it than the APB has done”.[24]

It wasn’t just because the Board represented the oppressor imposing their will on Aboriginal people, but that this process of subjugation and oppression made its mark on the Aboriginal community. From sending stolen children to slave-driving convents or “children’s homes”, to “missions” like Cabbage Tree Island being decimated by tuberculosis and various other preventable diseases, the APB was anything but what its title suggests.

The Board would appoint a mission manager and his wife to run the corrugated iron townships. In many cases the government wouldn’t bother employing managers; they would just appoint the local police sergeant to run the reserve, giving them divine right to deny access to visitors, quarantine rations and forcibly evict people if they got too rebellious. Ferguson was in regular contact with communities terrorised by the Board. At one Christmas/New Year’s celebration in Gulargambone, on the Cuckoo Corner property, a place of annual gathering for the local Aboriginal community, Ferguson met with young victims of the APB. They told stories of their experiences, being expelled from their communities for “idleness”, a policy used to drive young Aboriginal men and women into precarious and often indentured labour. It was here that Ferguson would declare:

The Board in Sydney has a complete control of us; they can do anything. One Day we will have a full inquiry made into these activities … I’ve been a member of the Union since I was a lad, picking up, and a member of the Labor Party since 1916, when I formed the new Trades and Labor Council in this town. I’ve my faith in the Labor movement to help us; it is a workers’ organisation, and we are all of us workers here![25]

Ferguson and his comrades used the resources of the APA to investigate, report and protest the appalling treatment of Aboriginal people on the missions. The government didn’t like this and as early as 1935 the APB central office warned all station managers to stop William Ferguson from entering stations because in every community the APA would go to, there would be Aboriginal people prepared to step up and join. Prior to this, Ferguson had found it easier to travel freely through NSW. He had always been proud of his Aboriginality but because of his light skin, prior to 1936 he was never under direct control of the APB. That changed in 1936 when the APB powers increased and they were allowed to “make decisions” for more of the Aboriginal population.[26]

In early 1937 Ferguson travelled to Brewarrina to investigate the Board and the racist white council trying to forcibly move Aboriginal people formerly at Angledool to the outskirts of the town. At a rally in Dubbo later that year Ferguson would declare:

I realise that we have all the best learned men and women in the world opposing our claim for freedom, for we have learned by past experience that the scholars and students will recommend that the race be preserved for scientific purposes. What a fallacy! What is there left to experiment with?[27]

His speech was a reflection of the outrage building in the face of intransigence from the government and the Board.

Pressure from the campaign forced the state government to set up a Select Committee on the Administration of the NSW Aborigines Protection Board to investigate the affairs of the APB. On 30 November 1937, Ferguson gave evidence to it. He outlined very clearly how he saw the connection between the racism that enabled the APB to pay Aboriginal workers a pittance for work over which they had no choice, and the interests of the working class as a whole:

We now pass on to Pilliga Mission, where the Aborigines Protection Board is working a sawmill with “scab” labour. Although there is an award covering that class of work which provides over 4 pounds a week, the protector has men working on the mill, benchmen 25 shillings, tailer-out 22 shillings, and others from 20 shillings downwards … I leave it to you to work out for yourselves how the Board, by sweating those men who they are supposed to protect, by the wholesale hiring-out system and supplying cheap labour to wealthy squatters, are using the aboriginal to break down working-class conditions.[28]

The 1938 Day of Mourning

The APB had the backing of the state in all its forms. When the select committee proceedings failed to initiate reform Ferguson, with other Aboriginal leaders, centrally William Cooper and John Patten, organised a Day of Mourning conference on 26 January (“Australia Day”) 1938. That year Patten and Ferguson wrote the pamphlet Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights! and petitioned the prime minister Joseph Lyons for a national Aboriginal policy.[29]

Ferguson had previously come into contact with William Cooper who had been petitioning King George V since 1935 for Aboriginal representation in federal parliament. The government (and the king if he ever saw it) were dismissive of the petition. In outrage and frustration, Cooper called a national meeting of Aboriginal activists for November 1937 to discuss the way forward. The Day of Mourning protest was born. They decided to gather 150 years after invasion, at the Australian Hall in Sydney, to demand justice, equality and an end to the racist policies of the APB.[30]

The call for the Day of Mourning saw a quick response from the state, and the prime minister contacted Ferguson to meet for discussions. The protest, of course, went ahead anyway. CPA member Tom Wright of the Sheet Metal Workers Union organised union support and helped draft the manifesto that the Day of Mourning meeting issued, and which the Communist Party printed and distributed around Australia.[31]

The protest had a broader effect on the Aboriginal rights movement, inspiring one of the most significant struggles of that period, the Cumeragunja strike. In February 1939, 200 of the 300 Aboriginal people living in the APB-controlled community of Cumeragunja staged a walk-off, initially to demand the sacking of the mission manager McQuiggin for his racist and brutal treatment, and eventually to demand a Royal Commission into the APB, an end to APB control of Aboriginal people and full citizens’ rights.[32]

The struggle of Ferguson and the APA began to bring about what many saw as progress for Aboriginal rights. The APB was “reformed” in 1940 and given a new name, the Aborigines Welfare Board (AWB). However the same racist paternalism was carried over to the AWB, this time more in the form of “assimilating” Aboriginal people to European ways, in nuclear families. In a half-hearted response to APA demands for democratic rights, in 1943 the new AWB made available two positions to which Aboriginal people could be elected. To the dismay of the government and the other Board members, against many candidates Ferguson won easily, but would not sit at first because officials vetoed the nomination of another Aboriginal activist, Walter Page. Aboriginal voters later confirmed Page as their representative. Ferguson would remain on the Board from 1944 to 1949.[33]


The last chapter of Ferguson’s life saw him break with the ALP. His long-term affiliation did not mean he was an uncritical member. For example, there is a section, “Exploitation of labour” in Patten and Ferguson’s 1938 Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights! A Statement of the Case for the APA. As well as outlining that for 150 years Aboriginal people “have been used as cheap labour, both domestic and out-of-doors”, it also attacks the ALP and unions for not giving support to the efforts of Aboriginal workers to fight their exploitation, making the perceptive point that “[t]heir ‘White Australia’ policy has helped create a senseless prejudice against us, making us social outcasts in the land of our ancestors”.[34]

In 1949, after many disappointments, Ferguson resigned from the ALP after hearing the Labor government defend the continued degradation of his people. In October 1937 Ferguson had written in the Daily Telegraph that “floggings are still allowed and the police can chain together captive natives. Or chain them to trees”.[35] Twelve years later, in 1949, Ferguson was part of a deputation to Canberra to ask the Labor government for further reforms. Ben Chifley’s minister for the Interior, Herbert Johnson, was worse than unresponsive; he defended the continued use of neck chains for Aboriginal prisoners in the Northern Territory, and defended unequal wages for Aboriginal pastoral workers. Ferguson, furious, resigned from the ALP and stood unsuccessfully as an independent for Lawson, the Dubbo seat, in the December elections.[36] Ferguson left the party a broken man, his resignation testimony to the hopelessness of trying to arouse the conscience of the ALP. It was not long after that Ferguson passed away from heart failure after giving a speech in early 1950.

But that is not the end. Resignation and despair are not the only possible responses to Labor’s failures. As historian Heather Goodall noted, “Ferguson’s great strength lay in his courage in leadership, his long involvement in union activity, and his developing contacts and common language with white unionists and Left political activists. He was able to force awareness of Aboriginal issues among these groups”.[37] The legacy that William Ferguson has left is to get organised, to demand solidarity and keep fighting. That Aboriginal people have allies, and that first and foremost those allies can be won among the working class. The APA and other major organisations of the 1920s and 1930s restricted full membership to persons “possessing some degree of Aboriginal blood”.[38] Non-Aboriginal people could join the APA as associate members and were eligible for elected office. Ferguson’s history as a union militant meant that the organisation he led formed alliances with left wing non-Aboriginal organisations from whom they demanded and got solidarity.

Rather than accepting the limitations of capitalism as Labor does, we need a perspective for social change that goes beyond it. The present divisions in society are not eternal. There’s nothing natural about people like the misnamed Protection Board – or the pastoral or mining bosses or any others – being able to dominate the lives of Aboriginal people or the working class in general. Ferguson’s dreams of a liberated people are yet to be met. That is our task. Lessons and inspiration can be gained from his life.


Attwood, Bain and Andrew Markus 1999, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights. A Documentary History, Allen and Unwin.

Clark, Jennifer 2008, Aborigines and Activism, UWA Press.

Foley, Gary, Koori History Website, http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/indexb.html.

Goodall, Heather 1996, Invasion to Embassy, Allen and Unwin.

Horner, Jack 1974, Vote Ferguson for Aboriginal Freedom: A Biography, Australia and New Zealand Book Co.

Horner, Jack 1981, “Ferguson, William (Bill) 1882-1950” Australian Dictionary of Biography, Macquarie University Press, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ferguson-william-bill-6160.

Lake, Meredith 2018, The Bible in Australia, NewSouth Books.

Norman, Heidi 2015, What Do We Want? A Political History of Aboriginal Land Rights in New South Wales, Aboriginal Studies Press.

[1] http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/indexb.html.

[2] The only substantial work on Ferguson is the 208-page book by Jack Horner (1974), Vote Ferguson for Aboriginal Freedom: A Biography. Despite being republished in 1994 it is long out of print.

[3] Lake 2018, p217.

[4] Goodall 1996, p184.

[5] ibid., p232.

[6] ibid., p193.

[7] Ciaran O’Mahony, “‘A very tragic history’: how the trauma of a 1926 massacre echoes through the years”, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/08/a-very-tragic-history-how-the-trauma-of-a-1926-massacre-echoes-through-the-years.

[8] Goodall 1996, p158.

[9] ibid., pp226-227, 235.

[10] Attwood and Markus, pp79-80.

[11] Horner 1974, pp3-4.

[12] ibid., p5.

[13] Horner 1974, pp9-10; Horner 1981.

[14] Horner 1981.

[15] Goodall 1996, p182.

[16] ibid., p233.

[17] ibid., p182.

[18] ibid., p234.

[19] Horner 1981.

[20] Gary Foley outlines the way in which the state’s definition of who was Aboriginal was a highly political method of control and punishment. In 1933 “[a] large camp of 200 Aboriginal people near Cumeragunja refused dole in Victoria because they were ‘NSW residents’, but denied assistance in NSW because they were ‘too black’ and should apply to the NSW APB. Under the prevailing assimilation policies of the NSW APB, they were told that they were ‘too white’ to receive rations because they were not ‘predominantly Aboriginal blood’.” http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/timeline/histimeline.html.

[21] Norman 2015, p11. Attwood and Markus 1999, p12.

[22] Goodall 1996, pp230, 232. Attwood and Markus 1999, p60.

[23] This was seen in the negative during World War II when the CPA’s support for the imperialist war effort undermined Gibbs’ and Ferguson’s campaigning. The CPA counterposed its support for the war effort to struggles in the unions and for broader political rights, which they either outright opposed or ceased to campaign for.

[24] Horner 1974, p37.

[25] ibid., p21.

[26] Goodall 1996, pp188, 232.

[27] Attwood and Marcus 1999, pp75-77.

[28] ibid., p.77.

[29] Horner 1981.

[30] Clark 2008, p5.

[31] Goodall 1996, p234.

[32] ibid., pp251-253.

[33] Horner, 1981.

[34] Attwood and Markus 1999, p85.

[35] ibid., p79.

[36] Horner, 1981.

[37] Goodall 1996, p233.

[38] Attwood and Markus 1999, p14.

Cape York: a history of Aboriginal dispossession and resistance

Rebecca Barrigos brings together research by social and oral historians who have recorded a terrible history of Aboriginal oppression in Weipa, Aurukun and Mapoon on Cape York Peninsula.

Review: Genocide in the Kimberley

Alexis Vassiley reviews an excellent new book describing the brutal policing of Indigenous peoples in the Kimberley in the late 19th century.

Who is to blame for racism in Australia?

Tess Lee Ack takes on the common assumption that racism among workers drives government policies and shows who actually promotes it.