Faith Bandler, one of Australia's most inspirational and influential human rights activists, has died at the age of 96. Yet Faith and her activism live on through her achievements and the reminder to all of us to draw strength.
Faith was a non-Indigenous Black Australian. Her father had been kidnapped from the New Hebrides as a 'sugar slave' to service Queensland's sugar cane farms. He later escaped, and Faith grew up in in a South Sea Islander community across the border in far northern New South Wales. As such, Faith knew both personally and through observation the inequitable treatment of groups within Australia on the basis of race.
Faith played a leading role in the ten-year lead-up to the 1967 referendum that finally afforded full citizenship rights to Aboriginal Australians. The result was an astounding 90.2% affirmative, the highest vote ever for a referendum in a country where referendums usually result in a NO vote.
For an insight into that era, Faith's role in the referendum and her powerful combination of quiet strength, warmth, dogged strategic approach and unwavering action, see the Australian Broadcasting Commission's 1997 video, "1967 ... Citizens at last?". One is left with no doubt about how the work behind the scenes helped the referendum achieve such a high level of support.
Faith's many contributions have included that of founding member of the Australian Republican Movement, and co-founder of the Women's Electoral Lobby.
Her activism didn't stop with age. This century, along with her continuing commitment to Aboriginal rights, she has spoken out strongly and frequently against the government's severe treatment of asylum seekers. In Faith's analysis, this deplorable situation is directly related to the country's failure to "establish a new and just relationship between the first Australians and those who came two hundred years ago" (Lake, 2002, p. xii).
Faith has indeed been a woman unstoppable - on her terms. Her achievements have been immense. She has worked strategically with politics and power at a time when the Australian public landscape was wall-to-wall claimed by men. She stayed true to her values, and she knew how to retain her humanity and have fun.
I love this woman. I also feel I have met her, and here's why. Faith lives on in the hearts of all those who continue the work for a world that's equitable, honouring and enabling for all groups, and sustainable. That means this community. That means you who are reading this post.
Even her death has been well-timed. There's an irony and strategic opportunity I feel she would have relished in the juxtaposition of our Australian Government's public accolades for her achievements - and their ongoing record with regard to human rights and social justice, including the debacle over the just-released report on children in detention.
Even her death has been well-timed. There's an irony and strategic opportunity I feel she would have relished in the juxtaposition of our Australian Government's public accolades for her achievements - and their ongoing record with regard to human rights and social justice, including the debacle over the just-released report on children in detention.Her legacy is the reminder that it's up to us and that with strategy and determination we can make the seemingly impossible a reality.
If you'd like to learn more about this wonderful woman, I recommend the book,"Faith: Faith Bandler, Gentle Activist, by Marilyn Lake (Allen & Unwin, 2002. ISBN 1 86508 841 2). I received this book from a dear friend for my 50th. Best gift.
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16/2/2015 11:37:00 am
Thanks Chris, What an amazing lady. I have just placed that book on hold - can't wait to get hold of it. <3
17/2/2015 11:13:24 am
Hi Rowena, she certainly is. So glad you enjoyed this post and are following up on the book. I'd love to hear your thoughts. In writing this post I also learned that the Marilyn Lake has made a powerful contribution in a number of ways. Small wonder this book was so captivating and well written.
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