The Lone Protestor wins Magarey Medal for Biography

Thursday, 10 July 2014
Dr Fiona Paisley holding her Award winning book The Lone Protestor
Dr Fiona Paisley holding her Award winning book The Lone Protestor

Written by Historian Dr Fiona Paisley and published by Aboriginal Studies Press (ASP), The Lone Protestor was announced as winner of the 2014 Magarey Medal for Biography on Wednesday 9 July.

Celebrated as the first Indigenous activist to campaign overseas, The Lone Protestor documents the travels and previously unknown details of Anthony Martin Fernando who left Sydney in the early 1900s and travelled throughout Europe, publicising the plight of Aborigines in Australia.

The biennial Magarey Medal is awarded to a woman historian judged to have published the best biographical writing on an Australian subject by a panel established by the Australian Historical Association and the Association for the Study of Australian Literature.

Dr Paisley said it was a great honour to receive the prestigious award, especially given the quality of books in the running for the medal.

“I am most grateful and very thankful to the judges for recognising the significance of AM Fernando’s story. The book was a challenge and a wonderful experience and its fascinating subject has kept me company for many years,” Dr Paisley said.

The judges noted the meticulous research, and the grasp and evocation of the national and international context, and the politics of the archive. Paisley's is an intelligent, nuanced and compelling biography set within an insightful and analytical framework.

Drawn from an extensive search in archives from Australia and Europe, within the pages of The Lone Protestor Dr Paisley has compiled the first full-length study of Fernando and the self-professed mission that was to last half of his adult life.

A relatively unknown pioneering activist, Fernando was interned in Austria during World War I, attempted to present a private petition to the Pope and protested in a Swiss newspaper against Australian injustice towards Aborigines.

By 1928, he was back in London where he continued his crusade by picketing Australia House for many years, wearing a long black overcoat, pinned with tiny skeletons. Fernando died on 9 January 1949 at Ilford, Essex.

During her research, with the help of her research assistant, Dr Paisley uncovered three small handwritten notebooks kept by Fernando which describe his life as a street trader in depression era London. In July 2012, she donated the notebooks to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

The Lone Protestor by Fiona Paisley is published by Aboriginal Studies Press, $34.95 RRP.

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Last reviewed: 3 Jul 2020