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Faith Bandler, study
, 2006

by Greg Warburton

synthetic polymer paint and charcoal on un-stretched canvas (frame: 58.8 cm x 50.8 cm, support: 45.0 cm x 37.5 cm)

Faith Bandler AC (1920-2015), civil rights activist and writer, was born Ida Lessing Mussing in Tumbulgum, NSW, to a Scottish-Indian mother and a cane-worker father from Ambrym, in what is now Vanuatu. Settling in Sydney after the war, she began to work full time on Indigenous issues, founding the Australian Aboriginal Fellowship in 1956 and becoming a founding member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in 1957. Within FCAATSI she directed the campaign toward the constitutional referendum of 1967, in which more than 90% of voters moved to remove provisions from the Constitution that were perceived as racist. Between 1962 and 1973 she was NSW State Secretary, and then General Secretary, of FCAATSI. In 1974, while researching a book about her father, she was central to the foundation of the Australian South Sea Islanders United Council. She declined an MBE in 1976, gained an honorary doctorate in 1994 and was named a Living National Treasure in 1997. Her books include Turning the Tide: A personal history of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (1989).

This intimate, immediate portrait is one of a series of studies Greg Warburton made in 2007 in preparation for a very large acrylic, pastel and charcoal portrait on canvas that was entered and hung in the Archibald Prize. The large portrait was displayed at Mrs Bandler’s state funeral service in the Great Hall, Sydney University on 24 February 2013.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2019
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2019.5