Faith Ida Lessing Bandler
Faith Ida Lessing Bandler (1918-2015) is a social-justice activist and a writer. A leader (1958-73) of the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement (later the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders), she campaigned tirelessly for the ‘yes’ vote in the Commonwealth referendum in 1967 for the inclusion of Aboriginal people in the census. Her conciliatory approach and compelling oratory helped ensure a successful result.
The ‘67 Referendum poses two questions: the first seeks to alter the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The second question asks whether two references in the Australian Constitution which discriminate against Aboriginal people should be removed. This question receives an unprecedented 90 per cent ‘yes’ vote, giving the parliament the power to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the federal Census and to make special laws for Aboriginal Australians. It is a landmark referendum in the history of Indigenous affairs, and marks the success of a ten year campaign launched in 1957 at the Sydney Town Hall. The Huge Town Hall meeting was organised by Aboriginal activists including Jessie Street, Faith Bandler, Gordon Bryant and Pearl Gibbs.