Ian Mercy sits back and enjoys the same glorious view that members of his family have enjoyed for five generations.
Ian Mercy sits back and enjoys the same glorious view that members of his family have enjoyed for five generations.

State Govt wants to take back Ferguson Cottage

By ANN-MARIE MAY

FIVE generations of the Ferguson family have called a four-room shack, in the area behind the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club, home but faced with eviction, they are now prepared to open it to the public to save it for posterity.

While some might view Ferguson's Cottage as a run-down blot on the landscape and envy its million-dollar-views, to the local Aboriginal community the weatherboard home is an important link to their past.

The cottage was given to Andrew and Evelyn Ferguson by the Department of Public Works when Andrew was acting as a caretaker during the building of the breakwall.

Evelyn 'Granny' Ferguson went on to be recognised for her tireless work in caring for Aboriginal children and dealing with the social pressures and racism of the 1950s and '60s.

A pioneer in many aspects of local Aboriginal life Granny Ferguson provided a much-needed bridge between the Aboriginal and white communities.

One of her particular strengths was her ability to solve problems within the community before they got out of hand.

Her story and that of Coffs Harbour's Aboriginal heritage lives on in Ferguson Cottage.

It is a story kept alive and passed on by her many descendants that have called it home and by the strangers who have found a welcome place to sleep.

Now there is fear that the State Government and the Department of Lands want the cottage gone and the Aboriginal community is asking for help.

Today the cottage is home to Beryl, Sandra, Christine, Deborah and Ian Mercy and Paul Johnston.

Property manager for the Coffs Harbour and District Aboriginal Land Council, Vicky Townsend, said the Ferguson family approached the council to try and stop the Government agencies from 'moving on' the family.

"The family have been made numerous promises by different organisations over the years, but have not received a solid guarantee of their occupation of the site," Ms Townsend said.

To save the cottage from disappearing and to secure Coffs Harbour's Aboriginal heritage, the Land Council is currently trying to get a preservation order.

If this is successful, the plan would be to restore the cottage to its original condition and offer it up as part of a unique tourist experience.

This would be in the form of a bushtucker walk that would start at Happy Valley and end at Corambirra Point.

"The Aboriginal community wants to put a meeting place at Happy Valley (at the northern end of the Jetty) for a bushtucker walk which would go along the foreshores to the cottage for story time, and then on to Corambirra Point," Ms Townsend said.

It would be a memorial to Granny Ferguson with signs put up displaying the history surrounding it.

The Aboriginal Land Council is asking anyone who knew the Ferguson family to write to them with letters of support for the preservation of the cottage.



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