(Transcript from World News Radio)
Hundreds of mourners have gathered in Sydney to farewell Indigenous political activist and writer, Faith Bandler.
The 96 year-old, who was instrumental in bringing about the 1967 referendum on Indigenous Australians, died earlier this month.
Naomi Selvaratnam reports.
At the University of Sydney’s Great Hall, friends and family gathered to farewell a woman whose work helped define Australia’s Indigenous rights movement.
Faith Bandler- civil rights activist, feminist and proud South Sea Islander descendant.
Former Labor Senator, John Faulkner, who was the master of ceremonies for the service, described Ms Bandler as one of the ‘fearless few’ who fought to eradicate racism and discrimination.
“She built powerful coalitions, alliances both enduring and contingent. Working relationships based on personal friendships or shared goals. Her ability to reach across boundaries of race, class politics and opinion in the pursuit of her great aims was at the heart of her successes. 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 Bandler fought for a series of social causes, but is best known for leading the political campaign resulting in the landmark 1967 referendum that allowed federal governments to take control of Indigenous affairs.
Daughter, Dr Lilon Bandler, described her mother as a woman who led her life with humour and grace, but was “intolerant of ignorance and foolishness.”
“She helped us all to be better people. Helped us to recognise that caring for people was fundamental for being on earth, that we ought to get on with it, we ought to work hard to improve the life of every single human being, regardless of race or religion, gender or geography and this is no time for shilly shallying, as she would say. It’s time to stand up as she did.”
But it was her role as a feminist that fellow activist, Anne Summers says was one of her lesser known passions.
“There were times in her life, some of them very difficult times, when being a woman became her primary definition of her identity and her self. And for Faith, being a woman and a feminist were synonomous.”
Friend, Dr Paul Torzillo described Faith Bandler’s contribution to Australia as one that will not be forgotten.
“There are occasional special people who are torch carriers for social justice. They gather the torch from their predecessors, they carry it through their generations and they pass it onto as many people as they can. When you meet them, you feel better about humanity, you feel better about yourself. They energise you to work harder, think bigger and be better. Faith was one of those people, and we’re all better for it.”