Vanuatu daily news Digest | Faith Bandler dies

Daily Post yesterday carried news of the first ni-Vanuatu to be offered a state funeral in Australia. The coverage is largely taken from Radio Australia and ABC with extra comment from Kirk Huffman.

Family of a great ni-Vanuatu visionary offered Australian state funeral

By Bob Makin

An Australian ni-Vanuatu with a huge reputation for political activism and concern for human rights has died aged 96. Faith Bandler was of Ambrym blood. She told the story of her father’s being taken for cane-field labour in a book called ‘Wacvie’ published in 1977. Her Australian mother had both Scottish and Indian blood. Faith was one of eight children. "We didn’t think we were poor," said Bandler, "because there was very little competition around. Everyone was poor."

Faith Bandler was originally known as Ida Lessing Faith Mussing (probably coming from Massing). She lived her early years on the northern coast of New South Wales and served in the Women’s Land Army which attended to agricultural production as Australian farmers served in the battle fields of the war. It was in such work she discovered the girls were not being properly paid and the Aboriginal women were even worse paid and Bandler began her career in activism on their behalf. And it is Australian Aboriginal workers whose cause she championed throughout the Second World War and later.

ABC and Radio Australia record Bandler’s role in setting up the Aboriginal Australian Fellowship and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Faith Bandler said she recalled an Aboriginal woman coming to her and saying "You’re nor free if we’re not free. Now you get up and do something about it: give me a hand." That was the beginning of Bandler’s lifelong work.

It went on to embrace citizenship rights for all Indigenous Australians during the ‘Sixties. There was much campaigning across the country. This culminated in the 1967 Australian referendum which brought full citizenship and voting rights to the native people of Australia. "To really understand what the situation is," Bandler had said, "you really have to be a black person born [into] this white society."

At the announcement of her death, Australian PM Tony Abbott spoke of her as a champion of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said she would be remembered for her "lifelong dedication and courage". A state funeral was offered her family.

Kirk Huffman writes that Faith Bandler was an example of the best type of humanity, rather in the tradition of other great visionary and compassionate spokespeople for human rights and recognition of those rights. From a very early date she struggled in Australia for the official recognition of Aborigines and South Sea Islanders.

Faith Bandler’s activism was largely responsible for the pressure that resulted in the classic ABC Radio Australia series ‘The Forgotten People’, and the one-hour ABC TV documentary of the same title, both coming out in 1978 which was really the first time that the general Australian public was forced to ‘remember’ the blackbirding days. Both the radio series and the TV programme deal with the descendants of the blackbirded South Sea Islanders in Australia.

Kirk Huffman met Faith Bandler in 1976 and was immensely impressed. "I felt that I had been privileged to meet one of those very rare, very quiet, very gentle and very good people of whom there are very few now in the ‘modern’ world. She is now with her ancestors. The world was privileged to have her with us for 94 years."

Faith Bandler is survived by a daughter.


One Comment on “Vanuatu daily news Digest | Faith Bandler dies”

  1. Margriet Hendriksen says:

    Thanks for your inclusion of tribute to Faith Bandler RIP