A week ago, what feels like an entirety, a friend died. Suddenly, unexpectedly.
This man was integral to my journey into working with the Indigenous community. We met while I was working on the Message Sticks Festival at the Sydney Opera House in early 2000. This was the first time I had worked closely with the Indigenous community. He witnessed my struggle, as a white fella, coming to terms with harsh realities of sins of the fathers, my fathers, my ancestors. Also, with some members of the community not being accepting of my presence, a white fella, engaged by the Opera House to market this annual festival.
Sensing, not only my discomfort, but my loss as to how to prove myself he took me aside – reached out his hand and made me feel part of the team. Accepting of me, he gave me the confidence to push forward and worked my butt off to make the festival and many events after a success.
On many occasions you would counsel me – yell at me, sometimes screaming- “give up the white guilt girlfriend” Get over it. Get on with it.
You taught me naughty words in language. You danced with me. We laughed. You are one of those rare people in life that could light up a room and make everyone feel comfortable.
You were my friend and confidant. We shared so many stories, laughs, tears, hangovers and sore feet. Dancing into the dawn, usually after an opening night or a festival, always full of love and laughter.
One day, you introduced me as Aunty to a mob of kids working at The Studio. I turned to you, embarrassed and said “Aunty” – yes, you said – you must be respected – you are helping our people get our stories out there. You are also old! *chuckle* that cheeky laugh.
As I’m writing this – MJ comes on – lets dance baby!
So many memories of our time together…
“Make me tall Bubba” . We were shooting you and Christine Anu for a Message Sticks Cover. We digitally altered the shot – very tall now!
Always making sure I was safely in a cab after a big night out after The Deadlys, Message Sticks, Page 8, Bangarra, the pub, the club …anytime and always
Kicking the drag queens off the stage at Midnight Shift as we wanted to dance there
The vulnerability when you were about to go on stage for Page 8, the scared look you gave me saying you didn’t think you could do it. Of course you did and it was brilliant.
Recording in your studio with Jessie for an advert. More laughter and fooling around. We missed the deadline and got in trouble.
Sneaking around the back of buildings, the opera house, lane ways, the wharf for a quick ciggie.
You confiding in me you knew something wasn’t right. I knew what it was and couldn’t tell you. I had to protect you. You would know now and I hope you are ok with it.
Running into you randomly at Brisbane airport – a few times, both of us up in QLD visiting our Mums. We would laugh walking towards each other at departure lounge. These were so random and so not planned. I will look for you when I am there next…and by the way, why was I always the one to get searched at screening….more laughter, you ALWAYS thought that was hilarious.
The incredible honour of seeing Sugarland on opening night in Sydney, but again you were so worried about what people would think of it. It was and still is an amazing piece of theatre. Touring as we speak and I am sure for many years to come.
The night after you died, you came and spoke to me in a dream, you were so very distressed, so sad and sorry. I woke and walked into the park, sat on a tree, with your words in my head. A huge flock of black cockatoos took flight at my presence, screeching and calling, looking down at me as the flew away. A sense of peace came over me and I knew you had gone. Every time I hear their call I will think of you.
I have guilt, not white fella guilt this time, but guilt as a friend I wasn’t there for you as you had been for me so many times. The late night calls had stopped, I thought you were ok. I so wish you had called me or anyone.
We hadn’t seen each other much recently but when we did we sure made up for it. We will meet again and laugh and dance.
Until then, from my ancestors – May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your back, may soft rain fall upon your face and may God hold you in the palm of his hand, until we meet again.
Rest in Peace Davey
Photo Credit for Black and Proud: Harold David for the Sydney Opera House Message Sticks Festival