Some Comments on Faith Bandler’S Speech

In a period when very little seemed to be happening to produce a better Australia for indigenous people, when the movement for land rights, for an apology, for reconciliation seemed stalled and old-style racism seemed the dominant mood of the country, Faith Bandler is trying to urge people to intensify the struggle, to be optimistic. She is speaking during the Howard period struggling against a sense of disillusionment – in the wake of Pauline Hanson and a white backlash, the rolling back of land rights, the destruction of ATSIC. She recalls the optimism of 1967 when at last Aboriginal people gained citizenship, voting rights, equality and freedom from the State Aboriginal Protection Boards, and how that optimism was soon shattered by the “ugliness” of enduring entrenched racist attitudes. She argues against giving in to despair as she sees the majority of people as fair-minded.
2. She gives many reasons for her sadness. She notes the “ugliness” of continuing racist attitudes, many of them out there in the media. She notes the sense that the land rights movement has lost steam. She mentions these negatives to anticipate why many in the audience may also feel a lack of confidence in solid progress ever being achieved. Only by acknowledging these feelings can she speak of moving forward.
3. Some issues: 1967 – the winning of citizenship and voting rights; 1960’s to 1970’s – the battle to achieve equal pay, particularly for stockmen; from the 1970’s into the 1980’s the battle for land rights. There are also general issues she mentions - housing, employment, education, as well as the need to enforce the Racial Discrimination Act.
4. A main example of “in-built attitudes” would be the talk-back jockeys who put aborigines down.
5 The closing section of the speech really lifts. It gathers in intensity and emotional force. Her simple telling of the story of Mapoon is vividly powerful – her strongly ironic language about the Mapoon people’s “unforgiveable fault” of...