Funeral of Faith BandlerPosted: February 25, 2015
ABC News reports …
Faith Bandler funeral: Family, friends farewell activist in Sydney Updated Tue at 3:30pm
Tue 24 Feb 2015, 3:30pm
Hundreds of mourners have gathered in Sydney to farewell political activist and writer Faith Bandler.
Family, friends and members of the public attended the funeral of the 96-year-old at the University of Sydney’s Great Hall, who died earlier this month.
Former Labor senator John Faulkner was the master of ceremonies for the funeral, with long-time women’s rights activist and journalist Anne Summers and New South Wales deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney giving speeches.
Mr Faulkner said she was inspirational because of how she worked, as well as what she achieved.
“Her ability to reach across boundaries of race, class, politics and opinion in the pursuit of her great arms was at the heart of her successes,” he said.
“Her life stands as a testament to how much one person can do to change the country they live in and the world they leave behind.” Ms Burney said Ms Bandler knew the challenges of being an activist. “Faith knew well the truth unites and liberates us all. But sometimes that truth is hard,” she said.
“Faith’s hands were always soft and when she held yours she passed on love with her touch.”
Dr Summers said it was natural for Ms Bandler to be a feminist and she knew how politics worked.
“Faith’s feminism was intrinsic to who she was,” she said.
“For Faith, being a woman and being a feminist were synonymous. For Faith, her race, her gender were inexplicably intertwined.
“She understood politics, she knew how to campaign and she knew how to win.” Ms Bandler’s daughter Dr Lilon Bandler told the service that while her parents were committed to the cause of social justice, they were also aware their views were controversial.
“My mother had learned from her mother and father than you had to fight for what was right, for what was just and that you had to stand up for people who couldn’t fight their own battles,” said Dr Bandler.
“Of course they understood that political action wasn’t always welcome.” Dr Bandler said her parents often met the surveillance they were subjected to with a sense humour.
“My parents would joke about the clicks we could hear on the phone … talking quite civilly to those we knew were listening in,” said Dr Bandler.
Ray Packham, an Aboriginal elder who was on the delegation with Ms Bandler at the Berlin Youth Festival in 1951, said he considered her family.
“Faith was like a sister,” he said.
Anne, a retiree, said she did not know Ms Bandler but was a fan of her work as a political activist for Indigenous issues.
“I just think she was a wonderful Australian because she was thought to be Aboriginal even though she wasn’t, she was discriminated in her own life,” she said.
Her ability to reach across boundaries of race, class, politics and opinion in the pursuit of her great arms was at the heart of her successes.
“But she spent her whole life fighting for Aboriginal rights and for Aboriginals to be recognised in our constitution and for the 1967 referendum and she just had a tireless life of doing the right thing. “I think she was a wonderful Australian and although I didn’t get to know her personally, I’ve followed her career, her life and I’m just very proud to have thought that I could come and honour her here today.”
Close friend Rona said Ms Bandler was a social person who knew how to spark a conversation.
“She was a dear friend who was always ready to help me if I was unhappy about something and she’s such a stimulating conversationalist too,” said Rona, who was friends with Faith for over four decades. “Lunches at her place were really exciting.
“She used to get people really talking about things and it’s hard to say. She means a lot.
“I think it’s unlikely we’ll meet a person of that combination of qualities again. She was really unique.”
Plight of others inspired Faith’s dedication
Born to a mother with Scottish and Indian heritage, and to a father who was kidnapped from an island in Vanuatu to work in the Queensland cane fields, Ms Bandler was born in Tumbulgum in northern New South Wales.
Originally named Ida Lessing Faith Mussing, she grew up on a farm on the NSW north coast and served in the women’s land army during World War II, when she realised that although the land girls were underpaid, the Aboriginal farm workers were even worse off.
Their plight inspired her to help set up the Aboriginal Australian Fellowship with Pearl Gibbs, and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
As the well-spoken middle-class wife of a Jewish engineer, Ms Bandler was able to cross Australia’s social boundaries and addressed hundreds of meetings at churches, schools, clubs, trade unions and local councils.
She was at the forefront of the 1960s campaign to grant citizenship rights to Indigenous people, and her 10-year campaign culminated in the success of the Yes vote in the historic 1967 referendum. By the 1970s, the focus for Indigenous Australians turned to asserting a right to cultural difference and as a non-Indigenous Australian, Ms Badler was voted off the council.
She turned to writing books and maintained an active political life, helping establish the Women’s Electoral Lobby, the Australian South Sea Islanders National Council and the Australian republican movement. She took up Indigenous issues again to speak out against the policies of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and John Howard’s government. Among many other accolades, Ms Bandler was appointed a Companion in the Order of Australia in 2009 and was a recipient of the Human Rights Medal.