Born in Ballarat 1882, the eldest of eight children, Burdeu was a trade unionist but more importantly he was a fervent Christian. Once an Anglican vestryman, he found the Church of Christ more to his liking, a church that worked on the grounds of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ and which was accustomed to giving each of its congregations considerable autonomy.
Burdeu was instrumental in the reforming of the Australian Aborigines’ League in 1935 and was soon elected as its president. In this role he worked hard to ensure that the organisation remained an organ of Aboriginal opinion and took pride in that the fact that the small Aboriginal community in Melbourne regarded him as a friend and councillor.
Burdeu’s involvement saw the League become much more strategic in the way it went about its work. This resulted in a considerable expansion in its activities. It made many more approaches to government but also overtures to like-minded white organisations. It also became a more effective champion of Cooper’s cause, which was a tribute the way the two men were able to work together.