Joyce Evans. ‘Faith Bandler’ c. 1951

Joyce Evans. 'Faith Bandler' 1951

Joyce Evans Photographer, Faith Bandler, c1951, Silver Gelatin Photograph

Faith Bandler, AC (born 27 September 1918) also known as Ida Lessing Faith Mussing is an Australian civil rights activist of South Sea Islander heritage. She is a campaigner for the rights of Indigenous Australians and South Sea Islanders. Bandler is best known for her leadership in the campaign for the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal Australians.

Text from

“As a young girl of South Sea Islander heritage growing up in rural New South Wales in the 1920s, Faith Bandler experienced discrimination first-hand. Her father had been kidnapped from his home in the South Sea Islands and forced to work for no pay in the Queensland cane fields when he was just 13 years old. During World War II, Faith served in the Australian Women’s Land Army where she received less pay than white women doing the same work. Motivated by this injustice, she initiated a campaign for equal pay for Indigenous workers upon her discharge.

Later, Faith helped to form the Aboriginal Australian Fellowship which sought to advance Aboriginal rights. She subsequently became the General-Secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. It was in this capacity that Faith became the driving force behind the campaign for a national referendum to remove a discriminatory provision from the Australian Constitution – one which effectively denied Indigenous Australians citizenship rights.

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.

Following the success of this campaign, Faith wrote a number of books and began agitating for the rights of South Sea Islander Australians. She was also a founding member of the Australian Republican Movement. Faith’s contribution to Australian history has been recognised through many awards, including an Order of Australia, the Human Rights Medal and being recognised as a Living National Treasure.”

Text from the Oxfam Australia website

Faith Bandler
1min 15sec

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