Skip to content
  • Open today 9am–5pm
  • Free general admission
A pair of white gloves.
Faith Bandler's gloves, 1960s. National Museum of Australia

Civil rights campaigner Faith Bandler wore these gloves while lobbying for the recognition of Aboriginal Australians as Australian citizens.

Bandler recalled wearing her white gloves, known as town or day gloves, when addressing predominantly white female audiences during the campaign for the 1967 Referendum.

At the 1967 Referendum Australians were asked to vote on changes to the Constitution. These were to include Aboriginal people when calculating the Australian population and to empower the Commonwealth government to pass laws concerning Aboriginal people.

The question put to the Australian people on 27 May 1967 read:

Do you approve the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled — ‘An Act to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the People of the Aboriginal Race in any State and so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the Population’?

1967 Referendum

Portrait of Aboriginal toddler with the words ‘Yes for Aborigines – write YES for Aborigines in the lower square – May 27th. – authorised by Faith Bandler 13 Kens Road Frenchs Forest - click to view larger image
'YES' for Aborigines pamphlet, 1967. National Museum of Australia. Donated by Janelle Marshall, the child pictured on the pamphlet

More than 90 per cent of Australians voted to remove references in the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Aboriginal people. This result was one of the few successful referendums in Australian history and remains the highest ‘Yes’ vote in an Australian referendum.

This was a significant symbolic step towards addressing some of the inequalities and discrimination Aboriginal people experienced. It allowed Aboriginal people to be included in the census and the Commonwealth government to make laws for Aboriginal people.

Bandler was instrumental in the ‘Yes’ campaign. She was actively involved in establishing the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship in 1956. She became New South Wales secretary, then general secretary, of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI).

FCAATSI was the peak body that campaigned for Indigenous rights in the period leading up to the 1967 Referendum

South Sea Islander heritage

Lobbyists from the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders meet with Prime Minister Harold Holt in February 1967 - from left to right: Gordon Bryant MP, Faith Bandler, Harold Holt, Pastor Doug Nicholls, Burnum Burnum (Harry Penrith), Win Branson and WC Wentworth MP. - click to view larger image
Lobbyists from the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders with Prime Minister Harold Holt (third from left) in February 1967, (from left) Gordon Bryant MP, Faith Bandler, Pastor Doug Nicholls, Burnum Burnum (Harry Penrith), Win Branson and WC Wentworth MP.

Faith Bandler was born in 1920 on the north coast of New South Wales. Her father, Peter Mussing, was a South Sea Islander brought to Queensland to work as an unpaid labourer. He was one of more than 60,000 South Sea Islanders who helped to establish the Australian sugahttp://collectionsearch.nma.gov.au/object/131831r industry.

Peter had been sold as a slave and was forced to work on sugar cane plantations until he escaped in 1897. Peter eventually settled in Tumbulgum, New South Wales and married Ida, an Australian born woman of Indian Scottish descent. They had eight children, including Faith, the second youngest.

Faith served in the women’s land army during the Second World War. In 1952 she married Hans Bandler, a Jewish refugee from Vienna.

Bandler was actively involved in the campaign for Indigenous rights in the 1950s and 1960s. She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1984 for service to Aboriginal welfare. In 2009 Bandler was appointed a Companion in the Order of Australia for advancing human rights and social justice, and raising public awareness and understanding of the heritage of South Sea Islanders and women’s issues. She died in 2015.

In our collection

Pair of short white cotton gloves worn by Aboriginal rights activist Faith BandlerThese gloves were worn by Faith Bandler when she was campaigning for the right of Aboriginal Australians to be constitutionally and legally recognized as Australian citizens in the lead up to the 1967 Indigenous referendum. She explains why she wore these 'day' or 'town' gloves when addressing groups of white women: "I used to...
Return to Top