Australian Biography - Faith Bandler

Shot Vision Audio In Point
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Animated Film Australia Logo
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Bandler

Bandler sync: My belief is in people. I fix my faith in people. I'm a great believer in the power of people.

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Archival people sitting singing

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Archival
Man holding Sign 'EQUAL PAY IRRESPECTIVE OF COLOUR'

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Archival Sign
pan right to MCU sign being held by people 'END WAGE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ABORIGINES'

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Archival Man speaking at meeting

Man sync: Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs Faith Bandler.

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Archival Crowd applauding

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Archival Bandler

Bandler sync: The eyes of the world are on Australia

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Archival Woman singing

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Archival Man singing

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Archival Bandler

Bandler sync: There one thing I know if I don't know anything else, and that is people have been given a shocking deal under the Queensland Government.

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Archival People singing

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Archival Bandler

Title fades up FAITH BANDLER BORN 1920
Civil Rights Activist
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Bandler sync: The fairest thing for the Commonwealth Government to do is perhaps hold a referendum.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: My mother was part Scottish, part Indian and of course very much Australian. I think that mixture contributed very much to her beauty. She had this deep olive skin against this jet black hair. She had a, she had a hard background, it wasn't easy.

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Archival man burning cane field

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Archival man burning cane field

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Archival burning canefield

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Archival burning canefield
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Archival four men with sun setting behind

Bandler v/o: I don't remember my father awfully well because I was awfully small when he died.

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Archival Shiloette of a Man carrying axe

He was born on the tiny island of Ambrim, which makes up the islands of Vanuatu.

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archival men with sun setting behind

He was kidnapped and brought to Australia as a child of thirteen years old

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and he was put to work on the canefields as a child in Mackay. He told us all this -- like where we lived it had two kitchens, there was my mother's kitchen but there was his kitchen was a lean-to and there was an open fire where the yams were roasted and the taros and the big black kettle hung from the by chain from the roof and there was a saucepan for the milk and around that fire these stories would be told to us by our father,

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Photo of a group of black men

Bandler v/o: and I heard these old men talking when I was so young about their experiences

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Photo three black men

and how it was for them and some had been kidnapped

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Photo Men on boat

from different islands because

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Photo men sitting on deck of boat

some of the Micronesian islands were practically wiped out and

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Photo Sailing boat

there was sixty thousand in all who were

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Illustration of how the men were stored on the boat

brought but I believe that it was sixty thousand men, I doubt if they counted children like my father

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Bandler

Bandler sync: but they were put to work in the canefields. It was a vigorous

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Photo Island men dressed in Western clothing

Bandler v/o: trade and most of them were sold for the sum of seven pounds ten.

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Photo Black men in Cane fields
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The life on the canefields was

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Photo Horses and carts in cane field

certainly very different to that in the islands.

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Photo men outside tent

They had to get up in the morning and they had to work

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Bandler

Bandler sync: all day from sun up to sun down and it was very, extremely hard. They were

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Photo Men lining up
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Bandler v/o: controlled by an overseer and

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Photo Young black men

if the overseer didn't have a whip he'd have a gun,

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Bandler

Bandler sync: which was very threatening, and the people of course knew what guns were about by the time they'd left the ships, because many had been fired on in the hull.

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Photo of cane
pan left to Women in cane field

Bandler v/o: Women worked also and women had their babies in the canefield. Pregnant women worked there

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Photo Baby

and worked as hard, they were kept out in the sun all day.

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Photo Cane in cart

It wasn't anything but an easy life

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Photo People in fields

and at first of course they were never paid. When my father came in the

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Photo man carrying cane

1880's they weren't being paid anything.

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Photo men in cane fields

They were looked upon like the horses and the equipment of the farm. They were part of the

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Photo of Woman

equipment and they were owned,

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Bandler

Bandler sync: but they died in great numbers and I'm sure

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Photo men and boys

that many of their illnesses was caused by malnutrition

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and they were buried in a common grave, which they had to dig and I recall clearly the old men telling us

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Photo men around table eating

Bandler v/o: these stories on a Sunday when they'd come to our places, I was a child

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and they'd talk about how bad it was to have to dig the grave of your own people.

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Photo three men in field

Bandler v/o: The trade stopped at the turn of the century.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: It was stopped mainly because of a public outcry, it would not have been stopped otherwise,

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Photo black men in white suites

Bandler v/o: and then deportation took place and the people were rounded up to be sent back.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: Now my father wasn't sent back, because by then he'd married my mother and had a family and those who were married were permitted to stay.

Interviewer o/s: So he married your mother while he was still working in the fields?

Bandler sync: No, no, no. He'd he'd he'd escaped and he'd left the north and had come down to the Tweed

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Archival fields

Bandler v/o: when they, when deportation began to take place. He got a farm going. He didn't like the idea of going around knocking on doors selling fruit and vegetables so he got a banana farm going

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Bandler

Bandler sync: right up in the hills on the North Coast of New South Wales.

Interviewer o/s: Is that where you were born?

Bandler sync: Yes.

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Archival Hyde park

Interviewer v/o: What brought you to Sydney?

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Archival Sydney street scene

Bandler v/o: I always had a yen for bright lights.

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Archival Harbour bridge

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Bandler

Bandler sync: I always thought about going to concerts in the Town Hall. I never ever believed I would when I was a very small child. I would read about them and when I actually had the opportunity to do that it was wonderful. I met my husband at a concert in the Town Hall. Changed my life.

Interviewer o/s: How old were you?

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Photo Bandler as young woman

Bandler v/o: I was old enough to join the Women's Land Army

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and I can tell you that was an experience in itself.

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Photo people in trees

Bandler v/o: The work was hard, but of course I was young and physically

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Bandler

Bandler sync: strong, just so strong I was.

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photo Bandler and others

Bandler v/o: We were moved from one town to another

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Bandler

Bandler sync: to harvest the fruit or the vegetables, whatever it might be. We were paid poorly, less than the males who were working there or who were managing us. It was camp life with camp discipline. Didn't suit me one iota.

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Photo Bandler and two young women

Bandler v/o: I think one of the good things about spending those three years in camp

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Photo Bandler and other in Uniform

with the other women was the friendships that had developed.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: I think the sad thing about the Land Army's girl's part in the war that there was never any acknowledgment afterwards. There was -- they weren't considered a force, they just merely filled in while the men were away.

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Photo men and work horses in field

Bandler v/o: When the men came back for their jobs, the women were forced to go and find something else.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: And so when the war was over I came back to Sydney

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Photo Bandler sitting in park

Bandler v/o: and, well , after that I became rather politically involved in what was happening in the world.

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Photo Bandler and others sitting in pub

Anyhow it was about this time that I got involved with the Margaret Walker Dance Group,

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and she had created a lovely dance that revealed the discrimination against aboriginal people and then she took that, she made up her mind to take that dance to a festival in Berlin and so I went off to Europe as a dancer, would you believe, it's crazy

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Photo Bandler in dance scene
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Bandler v/o: isn't it? So I went off to Europe and I went and actually through Western Europe as well as Eastern Europe,

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Photo Bandler holding flowers

and I

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Bandler

Bnadler sync: went to see the Dacchau concentration camp and, and I saw Europe five, six years after the war and it had a very deep impact on my life. I couldn't believe that as I walked around Berlin or Warsaw, Budapest, I might well be walking over so many bodies buried beneath the rubble. Terrible. Just dreadful. Anyhow I came home and Hans came back from Tasmania and

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Photo Bandler and Hans

Bandler v/o: in 1952 we got married and when we got married I moved to

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Bandler

Bandler sync: North Sydney and North Sydney was lovely then. It was a village.

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Photo Bandler holding baby
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bandler v/o: I had my daughter while we lived there.

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Photo Bandler and baby

She had her first two years in North Sydney.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: The first organisation I was involved in to change government legislation was a state organisation called the Aboriginal Australian Fellowship and this woman Pearl Gibbs,

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Photo Pearl Gibbs

Bandler v/o: she and I founded it jointly. Pearl -- you see,

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Bandler

Bandler sync: the aboriginal people in New South Wales were totally controlled by the government. They were locked away on reservations. When I say locked away they couldn't move in and out without the permission of what was known as the Aboriginal Welfare Board and Pearl's one ambition was to demolish that Board. She had sat on it and represented her people on it

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Photo May Day march
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Bandler v/o: and on one occasion I can remember her saying 'It's May Day, come and walk, come and march on May Day' and I said 'Too right'.

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Bandler

Banlder sync: So she went down to the waterfront and she got some of the wharfies to make a poster for her and it had a huge flame of fire and below was 'Burn the Board' and she said 'the Board should be destroyed because it controls my people's lives'. And so the tiny little organisation worked towards that end and in 1969 we achieved it, and we achieved it because of the dedication of the people in the group.

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Photo Jessie Street at desk

Bandler v/o: Now Jessie Street was then a patron, became a patron of the fellowship

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and, you know, Jessie had been at me for a while and telling me that we had to have that referendum. So she drafted the petition

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Photo Jessie Street

Bandler v/o: and then Jessie actually placed that in my hands and said to me 'There you are now go and get yourself a referendum'.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: When we began the campaign for the referendum the situation for black stockmen for instance was very bad.

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Archival Man on horse

Bandler v/o: Many were played absolutely nothing. They were given rations

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Archival Man sitting on floor

of flour and beef and tea, and this was in the late fifties

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Archival man pulling horse

and the early sixties, and they worked on the cattle station.

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Archival hand counting money

If they got wages

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Archival man counting money

they were paid about half the wage

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Archival taking of thumb print

that was paid to white stockmen. It was

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bandler

Bandler sync: a bad time, it was a time when even in the most advanced State perhaps, New South Wales, children

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Archival small children

Bandler v/o: could still be taken from their parents

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and they'd grow up and they'd marry perhaps and they wouldn't know who they belonged to and this went on of course up until quite recently, not that long ago at all.

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Archival Woman digging

Bandler v/o: The aboriginal people lived under

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six different laws.

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Each State had its own law. We needed

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Archival women walking through camps

the State laws to be abolished for this reason --

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Bandler

Bandler sync: that they created such tremendous confusion. You could be a relatively free person walking around Victoria and you come to New South Wales and you'd find you've got to go up to Bridge Street in Sydney to get permission if you can go and see your Uncle or Aunt, if your please. The if you move over the border into Queensland, well the very fact that you got over the border in Queensland, you could be arrested without reason. So there was a great need to abolish those State laws and to bring everyone under the common law, the Federal law. With incidentally, the migrants who'd come recently who have all the protection and privileges of the Federal law. So that is the main reason why it was important to have a referendum, we had to change the Federal Constitution.

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Photo Jessie Street

Bandler v/o: So Jessie Street, she'd drafted the petition,

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Bandler

Bandler sync: so we got the handbills out, we went to the wharfies and we went to the Seamen's Union and a few other unions and said 'Would you circulate these, we're going to have a public meeting at the Town Hall and we're launching a petition for a Federal Referendum for the rights of the aborigines.' And the unions took them and took the petition and the handbills and particularly Seamen's Union and they were marvellous because they were able to drop them at all the ports around Australia.

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Bandler

And that was the founding of the organization that brought about the major changes in the Federal Constitution, the Referendum that changed the Constitution in 1967 and we worked for that Referendum from '57 to '67.

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Archival Man

Man sync: We want to be come apart of our country.

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Archival writing on floor
tilt up MWS man walking down pavement

Man v/o: With the coming referendum, this should give us some power if we get yes.

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Archival Bandler giving speech

Bandler sync: And there is still a tremendous amount of confusion in the minds of the public as to how they are to vote on referendum day.

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Archival Clergy man

Clergyman sync: All the churches will be wanting their members to vote yes to end this discrimination.

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Archival Man

Man sync: It is said that we discriminatory and I think that if we vote no it will do a great deal of damage to Australia in the eyes of the world

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Archival Bandler

Bandler sync: So long as they put yes in the bottom square -- now this is absolutely so I want to make absolutely certain that all the conveners make a tremendous drive around this particular question and that is the ballot paper.

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Archival Voting station
title fades up Referendum Day, May 27, 1967

Singing

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Archival Bandler in line

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Archival man receiving leaflet

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Archival voting station

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Archival YES Banner

Bandler v/o: I woke very early on the

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Bandler

Bandler sync: morning of the referendum and I was hoping that someone would ring me up. I've always dreaded the thought in the end when the telephone would ring I would wonder who would be asking for what, but this day I really wanted someone to ring up and comfort me, I think, because I feared the worst. I didn't want to believe what we wanted would come about. I was afraid of the disappointment would be very difficult to cope with, you know. I just felt I couldn't cope with the disappointment of the referendum not being carried.

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Photo Bandler and others celebrating
zoom in CU Bandler
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Interviewer v/o: Do you feel a certain sadness,

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Photo Bandler and Hans
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personally, that having worked so hard for all of that,

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Photo Bandler
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that you personally have never really

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Photo Bandler giving speech
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properly been acknowledged as being very, very important to that

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Photo Bandler at type writer

history among the current

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Bandler

Interviewer o/s: Aboriginal leaders?

Bandler sync: Look, I don't think that we human beings should go about changing or trying to improve situations that are drastic for other human beings and expect to be rewarded. This is what life is about. It's about getting up and helping each other and doing the best we can to live... raise people out of their misery. I don't think that those people who worked for that referendum thought about rewards or thought about acknowledgment and I certainly didn't. I mean there were people who were involved in the prevention of war, people who went around asking for the atom bomb to be banned. There were people who were very politically conscious and people who knew what the lack of rights meant to a particular group of people and they were not the people who went around and said 'Well now really should honor me for all that I have done, look at the aborigines today'. I don't look at the aboriginal people today and expect them to say to me 'Well thanks Faith' you know, not at all, this is what we all should be doing. Everyone should be getting up and everyone should be involved in preventing what is going on in different countries that has to do with putting one group down against another on the grounds of race and whether it's in South Africa or whether its in what wasYugoslavia or in any other part of the world, we should be doing just that, and I see it just as a human being's duty to get involved in raising people to be equals in society.

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Archival cane fields

Interviewer v/o: When did you start getting interested in the plight of your

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Archival people striping cane

own people, of the South Sea Islanders?

Bandler v/o: I became interested

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Archival people striping cane

in my own people after the referendum

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Bandler

Bandler sync: and I discovered that some of them were fronting up as Torres Strait Islanders or as Aborigines in order to receive those benefits which flowed on as a result of the referendum, and I was very saddened by that and I feared that they would lose their identity.

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Archival people chopping cane

Bandler v/o: They were in this country through no choice of their own and the very fact that they have suffered all the

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Bandler

Bandler sync: racial discrimination that the aborigines have had placesthe Islanders in a very special category.

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Archival man with pick axe

Bandler v/o: They are perhaps the most deprived of all groups now in Australia and they have been deprived equally as much socially

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Archival man with axe

as the Torres Strait Islanders and the Aborigines.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: So we formed a National Council of Islanders, but it was, as I said, it was because I could see that they would become other than what they were that got me involved, and I don't want to be involved, you know, now and then of course, there was the Royal Commission into Human Relationships and together with a friend I made submissions on behalf of the Island people, and the findings were that they should receive all the benefits that the other two groups received, except land rights of course.

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Photo Bandler

Interviewer v/o: You actually went back to visit Ambrim, the island that your father had come from. What did that visit mean to you and could you tell us about it?

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Bandler

Bandler sync: Well it was a, quite an experience for me to go and find my father's village. First of all, I'd spent all those of my life working for the rights of Australian indigenous people, and then in the early seventies I thought 'Well, you know, enough is enough I want to do something now that I've always wanted to do' and that was in some way record the story of the life of my father ,

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Archival Island

Bandler v/o: and that in itself was quite an emotional experience.

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Bandler

Bandler sync: I didn't think it would be, I thought it would be quite romantic, you know I'd find the Islanders and I'd go there and I'd tell them that I belonged to them and they belonged to me and I'd eat coconuts and bananas and all this thing, sort of thing, but it wasn't like that at all. I just wasn't like that and I recall taking two other friends with Hans and we arrived in Vanuatu, and just putting my feet on that soil was quite overwhelming, can't describe it.

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Archival Fire outside hut

Bandler v/o: It was the first time in my life I felt

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Archival Children playing

I really belonged,

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Archival Woman and child

I really belonged

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Archival people sitting around outside village

and the welcome was quite overwhelming.

Interviewer v/o: Did you find the people who had been your father's immediate relatives?

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Bandler

Bandler sync: It was interesting, after a couple of nights we were housed in the local clinic, but we were told that if a woman was in labour then we'd have to go and sleep under the trees or somewhere. So we were in the clinic and each morning someone would be sitting outside with maybe a pair of roosters or some bag of yams or something like that, and they would be claiming me, you know. That I was their cousin's cousin or some link, some close link with one or another, but then finally they decided they'd really found the right person who really was my brother.

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Archival Bandler and relatives from island

bandler v/o: Well, it wasn't of course,

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Archival Women carrying pots

but it was because

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Archival Bandler and relatives from island

he was in direct line with my father in the tree as they said, and I found that --

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Bandler
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Bandler sync: I can't tell you -- it made me feel that I'd never felt I belonged quite as much as I belonged to this group of people.

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Photo Bandler and baby

Interviewer v/o: Now you've got a new grandchild, a brand new grandchild, what do you hope for the future for that child?

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Bandler

Bandler sync: Of more recent days, days, I have become concerned about the future of the world and I know that the birth of this little one has had something to do with it and perhaps that is why I have shown concern about the continuation of the manufacturing and the sale of arms, because if we go on doing that we're going to destroy ourselves, and I think in all fairness to my grand-daughter and a million or a billion others of her age, they deserve a decent world to grow up in and we owe it to them.

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Credits
Interviewer ROBIN HUGHES
Camera PAUL REE
Research GRAHAM SHIRLEY
FRANK HEIMANS
Sound Recording TIM PARRATT
Sound Mixing ROBERT SULLIVAN
Production Co-ordinator JOANNE HOLLIMAN
Production Mamager KIM ANNING
Film Australia would like to thank:
FAITH & HANS BANDKER
JOHN FAIRFAX LIBRARY
PATRICIA MERCER
ABC TELEVISION ARCHIVES
DAVID ROBERTS
Producer/Director
Writer/Editor FRANK HEIMANS
Supervising Producer SHARON CONNOLLY
Executive Producer RON SAUNDERS
Film Australia [Logo]

00:27:25
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