Faith Bandler is an example of how much one person can change the world, mourners at the human rights champion’s funeral have been told.
Ms Bandler was farewelled in a state funeral in Sydney on Tuesday by about 600 people who gathered to pay tribute to her life fighting for social justice, most memorably her pivotal work in gaining support for the 1967 referendum that gave constitutional recognition to Australia’s indigenous people.
Former Labor senator John Faulkner, who led the proceedings, said Ms Bandler’s life was remarkable.
“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,” he said.
The mourners who filled the University of Sydney’s Great Hall typified the people Ms Bandler touched throughout her life – from average people in the street to social justice campaigners and holders of high office.
NSW Labor MP Linda Burney, a close friend of Ms Bandler, was joined at the service by federal indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion, former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell and NSW Governor David Hurley along with his predecessor Marie Bashir.
NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and federal Labor MP Warren Snowdon also attended.
Ms Bandler’s daughter, Lilon Bandler, said her mother lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Second World War.
During the war she joined the Women’s Land Army, which took on farm labouring jobs in the absence of men sent to war.
Dr Bandler said it was during the war, when her mother noticed the women in the land army were paid less than men, and that Aboriginal labourers were paid less again, that her mother’s awareness of discrimination began.
“That war instilled in her a sense of outrage at injustice,” she said.
Faith Bandler went on to become a peace activist, gaining a five-volume file with ASIO, and a passionate campaigner for women’s rights and the rights of indigenous people.
Professor Paul Torzillo, a medical researcher and friend of Ms Bandler, said she was a torch carrier for social justice.
“When you meet them, you feel better about humanity, you feel better about yourself,” he said.
“Faith was one of those people and we’re all much better for it.”
Ms Bandler died on February 13 aged 96.
She is survived by her daughter Lilon, son-in-law Stephen Llewellyn and granddaughters Olivia and Nicola.