Four Inspiring Australian Biographies

BY MIGUEL GONZALEZ

WARNING: this article contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Discover four inspiring Australian Biography life stories for National Reconciliation Week

Four Indigenous Leaders

The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week is #InThisTogether. All Australians have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation; understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures is a good way for individuals to start their own reconciliation journey. 

This week, the NFSA’s Black Screen collection is sharing the inspiring life stories of four leaders who challenged injustice and worked tirelessly to generate massive changes to Australian society: Faith Bandler, Neville Bonner, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks and Charles Perkins. 

These four legends were incredibly generous when approached by the filmmakers behind the 1990s Film Australia series Australian Biography, making themselves available for hours-long, in-depth interviews where they discussed everything from their childhood days, to their many successes and dreams for the future. 

FAITH BANDLER, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST (1918–2015) 

A descendant of South Sea Islanders, Faith Bandler became involved in the peace movement in the 1950s, and was instrumental in setting up the Australian Aboriginal Fellowship. Faith was also a founding member of the Federal Council for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, becoming the director of its referendum campaign in 1967, followed by roles as NSW State and General Secretary. Faith was awarded an AM in 1984 and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2009. 

The full transcript of this 1993 interview is available on Australian Biography

NEVILLE BONNER, FORMER SENATOR (1922–1999) 

Neville Bonner grew up on the banks of the Richmond River and started his working life as a ringbarker, canecutter and stockman. He spent 16 years on the repressive Palm Island Aboriginal Reserve where he learned many of the skills that would help him later as a politician. Bonner became the first Aboriginal person in Federal Parliament, representing Queensland as a Liberal Party Senator from 1971 to 1983. Neville was the author of several books including Black Power in Australia; Equal World, Equal Share; and For the Love of Children

The full transcript of this 1992 interview is available on Australian Biography

ROSALIE KUNOTH-MONKS, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST (b. 1937) 

Until the age of nine, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks lived on remote Utopia Station in the Northern Territory where she learnt the Aboriginal laws of her tribe, the Anmatjere (Anmatyerre) people. While attending school in Alice Springs, she was discovered by filmmakers Charles and Elsa Chauvel, winning the lead role in the classic film Jedda (1955). By the 1970s, Rosalie became involved in social work and politics. In the 1990s she returned to Utopia Station, and continues to fight for the advancement of her community and her people. 

The full transcript of this 1995 interview is available on Australian Biography

CHARLES PERKINS (1936–2000) 

The first Aboriginal man to graduate from university, Charles Perkins was also one of the most controversial of Aboriginal leaders. As a pioneering Aboriginal spokesperson and bureaucrat, his determined and occasionally combative stance and his energetic entrepreneurial and reformist activities earned him many enemies as well as admirers.  

The full transcript of this 1999 interview is available on Australian Biography

As part of our online National Reconciliation Week celebrations in 2020, the NFSA is presenting a free online NFSA Live screening of the documentary Mabo: Life of an Island Man, followed by a live Q&A session with director Trevor Graham. We will also be publishing more National Reconciliation Week 2020: In This Together content on our website throughout the week until 3 June 2020.