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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 2 Hansard (17 February) . .

Page.. 423..


We all know that at any point in our lives we may find ourselves in a situation which we cannot find our way through. At any time our world may change dramatically. Sometimes we find that the relentless chipping away and undermining of our confidence can finally be too much.

"Are you okay?" Ask it of yourself today. Ask it of those around you. Let us all in this place make it our aim to care for each other in the ways we care for people in the community that have contact with us. Each of us would like to know that if we had the chance, we could help someone avoid suicide by our supportive behaviour and by just saying, "Are you okay?"

Ms Faith Bandler

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (4.34): I rise tonight to pay tribute to one of Australia's greatest social activists, Faith Bandler, who died last week in a Sydney nursing home, aged 96.

Faith Bandler is best known as one of the most prominent activists in the 10-year campaign that culminated in the 1967 constitutional referendum for Aboriginal rights. It was the most successful of all Australian referendums, with a 90 per cent yes vote. It gave the commonwealth the right to legislate for Aboriginal people, removed some discriminatory sections and allowed Aboriginal people to be counted in future censuses. It was an important step in rights for Aborigines.

The campaign's success was in no small part due to Faith Bandler's poise, charm, good humour and reasonableness, which won over the Australian public and Prime Minister Bob Menzies. Ms Bandler co-founded the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship in 1956 and joined the campaigner Jessie Street and others in 1957 to launch the campaign that led to the 1967 referendum.

In later years, she continued to take up issues dear to her heart. She was a founding member of organisations such as the Women's Electoral Lobby and the Australian Republican Movement, and she campaigned for the rights of South Sea Islanders brought to Australia to work in the Queensland cane industry. Indeed, she refused an MBE in 1976 because it was, as she said, "from an empire that kidnapped and enslaved my father". She later told the Australian biography project:

... he was born on the tiny island of Ambrym, which [is one of] the islands of Vanuatu and he was kidnapped and brought to Australia as a child of 13 years old and he was put to work on the canefields as a child in Mackay.

She added:

So he worked for nothing for years and years and years. It wasn't indentured labour, he'd signed no papers, he was enslaved.

He escaped, eventually settling near Tumbulgum near Murwillumbah, running his own banana farm. That is where Faith Bandler was born in 1918. Her mother was of Scottish-Indian descent.


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