Faith’s father was abducted from his home in Vanuatu as a 13 year old boy in 1883. His abduction was part of “blackbirding”, the slavery trade which brought cheap labour to help establish the Australian sugar industry. He eventually escaped, as an adult and walked from Mackay to Brisbane. He married a beautiful Scottish-Indian woman and they had eight children together (Faith was the second youngest).
Ida Faith Mussing was born in Tumbulgum (NSW) in 1918.
Although her father died when she was five, the stories of his harsh experience as a slave labourer was a strong motivation for Faith’s activism later in life. The Depression cut short Faith’s schooling, although she went to night school in Sydney after the war. When Japanese submarines attacked Sydney Harbour in 1942, she joined the Women’s Land Army. Her brother Eddy died on the notorious Burma-Thailand Railway.
In 1952 Faith married Hans Bandler, a Jewish refugee from Vienna. During the war, Hans had been interned in the Nazi labour camps, Dachau and Buchenwald. The couple had a daughter in 1954, and also fostered an Australian Aboriginal son.
Faith was NSW Secretary for the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the lead-up to the 1967 referendum, leading the charge in publicising the case for a ‘Yes’ vote.
One of many people who made their case directly to the media in a powerful and personal way, Faith argued that a ‘yes’ vote would allow the federal government to take real action to address issues affecting Indigenous people. The referendum succeeded with over 90% of the electorate endorsing changing the constitution to give the Commonwealth control of Indigenous affairs.
For her role in the referendum and decades of standing up for Australia’s first peoples and South Sea Islanders, Faith was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1984, and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1999.
Faith also worked for Aboriginal education and housing, was a founding member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) and the Australian Republican Movement, campaigned for the rights of South Sea Islanders and wrote six books. Faith died in 2015 at the age of 96.