NAIDOC Week 2020: What it means to be a First Nations person

 

Corey Davis joined Healthy Land and Water in 2020 and is a Project Manager for the Natural Asset Management Protection Team where he leads the delivery of landscape restoration projects across various parts of South East Queensland.

 

What are your connections to Country?

I was born on Wadjanbarra Yidinji country in Atherton on the Tablelands, I grew up on Mamu Country in Innisfail on the coast and have now settled on Kabi Kabi country at Toorbul.

My Mother’s Mother’s people are Bindal/Yuru, from Bowen up to Townsville, and Kabi Kabi, from Noosa up to Rainbow Beach, a beautiful part of the world. My Mother’s Father’s people are Gangalou from central Queensland around Blackwater.

My Father’s Mother’s people are Yidinji/Mamu, from the Atherton Tablelands down to Innisfail. My Father’s Father’s people are Dulabed Mallanbarra Yidinji from Lake Eacham in the Atherton Tablelands, down to the Goldsborough Valley along the Mulgrave River to Gordonvale, very beautiful parts of the world.

I have a connection to a large area of Queensland.

 

What does it mean to you, to be recognised as a First Nations person?

I’m very proud. Anyone who knows me knows I am a proud Indigenous man; I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not afraid to express who I am, where I come from, where my people are from, and what my people have been through. I hope that more Indigenous people, especially young people, feel the same way; that they embrace their heritage and are proud of who we are.

 

Do you think across society, your culture receives appropriate recognition and respect?

I think in day-to-day life, yes, but I think the leaders of our country can do a lot more. One thing that comes to mind, that a lot of people might not be aware of, is the fact that still to this day, Indigenous people aren’t recognised as First Nations people under the Australian Constitution. We change laws every day in this world, so I’m still scratching my head about why we can’t change the Constitution.

To answer your question; no, not at a high level, but in the day-to-day life, yes. I feel the recognition is in the workplace, in schooling and even in sporting teams. Things have come a long way since my parents and grandparents were kids. We’ve got NAIDOC celebrations and Indigenous sporting rounds. We’re doing this right now – this is part of recognition.

 

“I would like my daughters to grow up in an Australia where they don’t feel shame to express who they are and their heritage. I want them to be who they dream to be, without any self-doubt because of their Indigenous heritage.”

 

 

 

You have a young family, with two beautiful daughters. What is the future Australia you hope your daughters get to experience?

I would like my daughters to grow up in an Australia where they don’t feel shame to express who they are and their heritage. I don’t want them to have any doubt in their minds about expressing who they are and where they come from.

I want them to be who they dream to be, without any self-doubt because of their Indigenous heritage.

I want our education system to teach both sides of Australia’s history, because then respect and acknowledgement will become the norm. Growing up, we were only taught one side. There’s a lot of good to teach about the Indigenous side of history. There’s a lot of bad as well. This also needs to be talked about, so the next generations can embrace Indigenous people, and embrace Australia.

I hope the difference in the life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people improves. When alcohol, tobacco and drugs was brought in at a fast rate, in a short period of time it flipped Indigenous health on its head. Our people weren’t allowed to hunt anymore, and they weren’t paid with money. They were paid with sugar, flour, alcohol and tobacco. Our people went from being healthy, living off the land, to having supressed immunity and increased rates of diabetes and heart disease.

I also hope that Australia will start to focus on and highlight the positive things our people are doing and achieving, not just in sports. The number of year 12 and university graduates each year has risen tremendously, as has the number of managers and qualified Indigenous trade persons. I feel none of these achievements are highlighted enough.

While respect and recognition has come a long way, I hope that it now goes a lot further than it already has and at a much faster rate. That’s the future Australia I hope my daughters’ experience.

 

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