Sunday, 15 February 2015

Faith Bandler, a woman I was

proud to call "friend" has died on Friday 13th February 2015. She was 96.
I first met her as a teenager. She was a close friend of another friend. On that first occasion it was at a rather large and noisy event for writers - and neither of us saw ourselves as writers. We were merely waiting for our friend in common. She introduced us and we sat on a seat outside the venue to wait.
My first impression was of a very well dressed woman with a friendly and mischievous smile. So, she wanted to know, how did I happen to know our mutual friend? 
I explained, asked if she was enjoying her stay here. It was the usual sort of chat between two people who don't know one another well. I knew she had been a leader in the push for indigenous Australians to be recognised in the 1967 Referendum. My paternal grandfather, not a particularly political man, had carried on the work of his mother in pushing for the same thing. (No, there isn't a drop of indigenous blood in our family. There was - and is - a strong sense that everyone should be treated equally.) We talked about that. So, that's who I was? Oh yes, she had once met my paternal great-grandmother. She had been quite young at the time. 
I didn't think too much of it. A mere teenager I just accepted it. But, when she left me with our mutual friend, she hugged me. I didn't see her again for several years. 
On the next occasion I was about to go to university abroad and an indigenous friend here phoned me and said, "Come for lunch Cat? Can you make time this week - before you go?"
I made time. Lunch at Rosie's place was never to be missed. And it was certainly not to be missed on that occasion because there was Faith. The two of them were plotting and planning other things but they had both wanted to see me before I left. Hugs, kisses, catch up. It was good.
And so it went on over the years. I saw more of her when I lived interstate. Every time I saw her she was warm and welcoming and would ask about my family. We would talk about her work but we also talked about other things, the sort of things friends talk about. We could laugh together, dream together. We went to meetings and talks together. We ate lunch together. One weekend of wild weather a cousin of the Senior Cat invited her to come with me to an interactive science exhibition because his boys wanted to go. Why not? She tried every exhibit with enthusiasm. A woman who had, of necessity, left school before she could really read or write she managed to write several books in later life.
Faith had faith even when facing criticism from other indigenous people. Her views were perhaps more realistic than theirs and her demands more reasonable.
Faith had hope too, hope for the future. I don't think she ever lost it even when things appeared to be sliding backwards. "If it is right then it will happen," she kept telling me.
Faith had charity too. She did not like a certain politician - a man who was much lauded for his government's "progress" with indigenous affairs. Perhaps she saw him for what he really was. I don't know but I do know she would smile and say, "He's only human I suppose."
I wonder what she would have thought of our present Prime Minister's offer of a state funeral. I suspect her response would be "Don't be ridiculous!"
We lost touch in the last few years. It happens when people grow old - and she was 96 - and you don't live in the same place and the capacity to read and write becomes physically limited. But I know that if I had walked into any room she was in - one filled with people - she would have hugged me, kissed me and introduced me as a friend. 


1 comment:

Jan said...

A remarkable person.