Life On The Job


Famous or Historic People

Dr. Faith Bandler  (23 September 1918 – 13 February 2015) Dressmaker, Author and Civil Rights Campaigner

Portrait
(Source: Anne Summers)

Faith Bandler, AC, née Ida Lessing Faith Mussing, was an Australian civil rights activist of South Sea Islander and Scottish-Indian heritage. She was a campaigner for the rights of Indigenous Australians and South Sea Islanders. Bandler was best known for her leadership in the campaign for the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal Australians. (Source: Wikipedia)

Painting
Archibald Prize 2007 by Greg Warburton

Early life and family

Bandler's father, Peter Mussing, had been blackbirded from Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, in 1883, at the age of about 13. He was then sent to Mackay, Queensland before being sent to work on a sugar cane plantation. He later escaped and married Bandler's mother, a Scottish–Indian woman from New South Wales. Bandler cites stories of her father's harsh experience as a slave labourer as a strong motivation for her activism.

Bandler grew up with her family on a farm near Murwillumbah, New South Wales. Her father died in 1924, when Bandler was just five years old. In 1934, Bandler left school and moved to Sydney, where she worked as a dressmaker's apprentice. (Source: Wikipedia)

Faith with flag
(Source: The Australian)



Personal life & Education

Wacvie Mussingkon (her father) finally settled at Tumbulgum, northern NSW, and married Ida Venno, of Indian-Scottish descent. They had four sons and four daughters, including Ida Faith, born on September 27, 1918.  (Source: SMH)

The family moved to Murwillumbah and, although the Tweed Heads Chamber of Commerce wanted a separate school for "coloured children", records show that Faith passed the examination for entrance to Murwillumbah High School in 1932. She may have been the only black child to do so.

The Mussings survived the Depression with the help of home-grown produce. They argued politics around the dinner table, Faith's politics were already developing a radical bent. Music united them. Ida sang Handel and Strauss arias at home. Faith and the boys loved Paul Robeson and followed the civil rights struggle in the United States.  (Source: SMH)

The Depression cut short Faith's schooling, although she went to Cleveland Street night school in Sydney after the war. Her first job was with a dressmaker, then as a domestic help, and she learned the piano. But, when Japanese submarines attacked Sydney Harbour in 1942, she joined the Women's Land Army. Her brother Eddy died on the notorious Burma-Thailand Railway.

Afterwards she became a seamstress, joined the cosmopolitan world of Kings Cross, met people of the Left, including poet Dame Mary Gilmore and writer Len Fox, and developed a long and close relationship with Karl Schultz, a Finnish seaman who jumped ship and encouraged her interest in politics. She took formal singing lessons.

Endorsed as a delegate to the Australian Peace Congress in 1950, Faith came under the influence of Jessie Street, who worked to have the rights of women included in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was an executive member of the World Peace Council. She had gone with other young Australians, fearing that World War III was about to begin, and wanting to prevent it. ASIO opened files on them and their passports were confiscated on their return. Bandler did not get hers back for 10 years and she lost her dressmaking job at David Jones. (Source: SMH)

Mrs Faith Bandler AO, REMEMBERING OUR ICON, 13th February 2015

https://youtu.be/8KBfrr2FGhQ

 


Hans Bandler also knew about discrimination. A Jew born in Vienna, he saw the Nazis march into his country and spent time in Dachau and Buchenwald. He and Faith married in 1952, after her return from the 1951 Berlin Youth Festival in East Berlin.  (Source: SMH)

In 1952, Bandler married Hans Bandler, a Jewish refugee from Vienna, Austria and lived in Frenchs Forest. During the war, Hans had been interned in the Nazi labour camps. The couple had a daughter, Lilon Gretl, born in 1954, and a fostered Aboriginal Australian son, Peter (Manual Armstrong). Hans died in 2009.

Bandler's daughter, Lilon, is a medical graduate of the University of New South Wales and a specialist general practitioner, working part-time with the Royal Flying Doctor Rural Women's GP Service. Lilon has also been awarded a Master of Health Policy in addition to her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and is a senior lecturer in Indigenous health education at the University of Sydney's medical school, the Sydney Medical School. (Source: Wikipedia)

Experiences & Opportunities

During the 1950s, Faith became involved in the peace movement, and in 1956 she was instrumental in setting up the Australian Aboriginal Fellowship. Faith was also a founding member of the Federal Council for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, becoming the director of its referendum campaign in 1967, NSW State Secretary from 1962 to 1970 and General Secretary from 1970 to 1973.

 

Indigenous rights in Australia, 40 years after referendum

https://youtu.be/OQb_zvOuPiM

 

 

In 1974, Faith decided to direct her energies to the plight of her own people, the 16,000 descendants of South Sea Islanders. She founded the National Commission for Australian South Sea Islanders and, in 1975, made her first emotional journey to her father’s birthplace on Ambrym.

Amongst her many achievements, Faith Bandler was also a founding member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby. Since the 1970s, this group has campaigned to address inequality experienced by women and was at the forefront of the Australian women’s liberation movement.

A major concern of the Women’s Electoral Lobby was, and remains, gender equality in the workforce. In 1972, they ran a large campaign calling for equal wages and equal employment opportunity for women. On 15 December 1972, women were awarded the male rate of pay, no matter what work they were performing.

Working towards gender equality was also personally important for Faith, who worked in the Women’s Land Army during World War 2. These women worked in a number of industries to counteract the loss of male workers who had left to fight the war.  (Source: Australian Biography)


The 1967 Referendum

Poster 1967
Poster authorised by Faith
(Source: NMA)

In 1957, she and fellow activist Jessie Street launched a petition in support of the referendum. Thousands signed it. Over the years that followed, Faith campaigned tirelessly, addressing hundreds of public meetings and arguing persuasively for the rights and legal equality of Indigenous Australians.

Finally, after ten years, the Australian Government decided to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution in 1967. More than 90 per cent of Australians voted in favour of the amendment – representing the highest level of support for any referendum held before or since.
(Source: Oxfam)


The 1967 referendum was a triumph for Bandler and her campaigning colleagues. "The hardest part was to get people to think of the Aboriginal people as people," she recalled of the vote that gave the first Australians the status of human beings in the census.

The campaign achieved the highest "yes" vote recorded at an Australian referendum - 90.77 per cent. Discriminatory sections were cut from the constitution and the Commonwealth gained power to legislate for indigenous people.

Until 1967, South Sea Islanders had fared better in Australia than had Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. They had the vote, for a start. But a terrible irony emerged for Bandler and other islanders who had worked for a "Yes" vote.

The referendum led to legislation specifically designed to help Aborigines and Torres Strait Island families, overlooking the 20,000 descendants of the South Sea Islanders, who were not eligible for benefits in fields such as education, health and housing. Bandler had another campaign to fight.  (Source: SMH)

1967 Referendum
Faith Bandler, right, with activists Pastor Doug Nicholls, Gordon Bryant and Mrs W Branson during the 1967 referendum campaign that delivered indigenous citizenship.
(Source:
The Australian)

Faith Bandler - Activist

https://youtu.be/jmkBqNuTikQ


Honours

The National Trust listed her as a national living treasure in 1997 and the Herald, in 2001, included her among the 100 most influential Australians of the 20th century. The Good Weekend, in 2011, included her in a list of 50 women considered the most influential in the world.

After refusing to accept the MBE from "an empire that had kidnapped and enslaved my father", Bandler was made a Member in the Order of Australia in 1984, an honour elevated to Companion in 2009. Her other awards included an honorary doctorate of letters from Macquarie University and a Sydney Peace Foundation award, presented by Mandela. (Source: SMH)

Faith 'retired' from active political life in 1973 to research and write about her father's experiences and about her brother's life growing up in Australia. She also wrote a personal history of FCAATSI, with the short title Turning the Tide, which provides a lively and readable account of her association with the Federal Council.

Over the years Faith has continued to remind Australians of the significance of the 1967 Referendum achievement, both for Indigenous Australians and for the nation as a whole.
(Source: NMA)

 

STATE FAREWELL FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE FIGHTER FAITH BANDLER

https://youtu.be/DcWZhOIeic0

 


Links:

Pacific Islander Biography

PIB
The Australian Women's Register

Women's Register
ABC: View points

View points
National Museum of Australia

NMA


Another site within NMA about Faith
Australian Biography (pdf) based on Film Australia's production.

Australian Biography
SMH - 14 February 2015

SMH 14 February 2015
SMH - 14 February 2015

SMH
SMH - 14 February 2015

SMH
The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth Century Australia

Australian women
ABC Splash and ABC Education

Splash
National Film & Sound Archive Middle (Educational Package - Activities provided)

NFSA
National Film & Sound Archive  Middle (Educational Package - Activities provided)

1967 Referendum
Faith Bandler: Australian Biography

Govt Faith Bandler
Wikipedia

Wikipedia
The Conversation 16 February 2015

The conversation
ABC News 21 March 2015

ABC News
ABC Splash: Righting wrongs in the 1967 Referendum

ABC Splash
 

Other Links

Did You Know?

Faith was an Author...

Her intellectual capacity is also evident in that she sole authored three books:
Wacvie (1977),
Welou, My Brother (1984), and
Turning the tide: a personal history of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (1989).

With Len Fox, she co-authored another, Marani in Australia (1980), and and co-edited the collection The Time was Ripe: A History of the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship (1983).
(Source: The Conversation)

Activities

Compare and contrast Rosa Parks and Faith Bandler

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

NumeracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

1. Investigate these two women - Rosa Parks in the USA and Faith Bandler using the resources on this website. List the facts about each woman:

  • Their parents
  • Their family
  • Date of birth
  • Their education
  • Their marriages and children
  • All their work
  • Their involvement with the Civil Rights Movement in each country
  • Their actions
  • Their deaths and funerals

2. Put into a Venn Diagram their differences and similarities. Use the Venn Diagram Maker

Venn Diagram

Share your diagram with a partner and discuss any differences.

 

Celebrating the songs of Australia's Civil Rights Movement

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High School Secondary

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking 

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

IndigenousAustralian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

PhilosophyPhilosophy

1. "For two hours at Bennelong Point on Tuesday night (17 January 2017), the Sydney Opera House rang out with songs of hope, empowerment, and freedom.

The occasion was 1967: Music in the Key of Yes, a concert to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, the culmination of a ten year campaign led by the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders." (Source: The Conversation 18 January 2017)

You are to read the article from The Conversation 18 January 2017 and list all the songs sung on the night. Indicate:

  • the songs that you know and don't know
  • the song writers
  • the song's context (what was it written for? when?)
  • Are all the songs about the Australian Civil Rights Movement? Why? Why not?

The Conversation

2. Investigate the lyrics for one of these songs - preferably one you don't know. What do these lyrics tell you about the culture of the time of the 1967 Referendum? Have they any relevance to today? Why? Why not?

How have some of these songs been used in a different context when they were written? Can they still be relevant? Why? Why not?

Do you agree with the author of The Conversation 18 January 2017 about the songs chosen?

Discuss with a partner.

3. With a partner, you are to list current or popular songs about "hope, empowerment and freedom". Write down as many as possible. How many did you come up with?

Discuss with another pair of students and compare your lists. Are there songs that should be on your list that the other students came up with? Are there any songs that you don't think should be on the list as they don't represent songs about hope, empowerment or freedom?

4. Using the song you selected to investigate further (in 2.), write another verse specifically about either:

  • Faith Bandler and her role in the 1967 Referendum, or,
  • The 1967 Referendum, or,
  • An issue facing Indigenous People today in Australia

5. Have your own class concert using your songs (or use them at a school assembly!)

Comparing Stories about Faith

MiddleMiddle  High School Secondary

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

NumeracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy

IndigenousAustralian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

1. Many journalists wrote about Faith after her death on the 13th February 2015. You are to investigate the following the first three articles (two are by the same author) from the Sydney Morning Herald. Note the differences in content, tone, and focus in each of these articles.

SMH - 14 February 2015

SMH 14 February 2015

 

SMH - 14 February 2015

SMH
SMH - 14 February 2015

SMH
SMH - 10 August 2002

SMH

2. Write down the facts about Faith's life and family that are in each of these 3 articles. Did they have similar facts? Did one article have more detail than the others?

On a timeline, combine all three articles' facts about Faith.

3. Discuss with a partner which article you consider to be the most informed about Faith. Which article gives you a glimpse into the real character of Faith?

4. Compare and contrast the older article from the SMH in 2002. Are there further insights into the character of Faith from this article? Any additional facts? Add them to your timeline.


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