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Jack Davis

(1917 to 2000)

Jack Davis

Source: Identity

Jack Davis, who is widely known as a poet and playwright, became the Western Australian state secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) in 1969, after the position had been unfilled for two years.

As a child, Jack had been sent to Moore River settlement north of Perth with the promise of training in farm work but he left when this didn't eventuate. Jack's earlier protests against discriminatory practices such as curfews were as an individual but, by the 1960s, he had become active in the Western Australian Aboriginal Advancement Council, and was appointed as the manager of its Aboriginal community centre in 1967. In 1969 he became director of the Aboriginal Advancement Council.

For Jack Davis, annual FCAATSI conferences provided a forum for Indigenous Australians to express their own ideas. He believed that FCAATSI contributed strongly to a developing sense of identity and group solidarity among Aboriginal Australians.

In 1973 he became editor of the Aboriginal cultural magazine Identity in the newly formed Aboriginal Publications Foundation. He combined his own writing with active support for Aboriginal artistic endeavours for the rest of his life.

Davis' first book of poetry The First Born and Other Poems was published in 1970. His poetry, which expresses a yearning for a past connectedness with the land, is innately political. His plays such as Kullark and The Dreamers dramatise race relations in the present as well as the past. In 1976 his work was recognised when he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to his people and for his writings. He has also been honoured with an Order of Australia and honorary doctorates from the universities of Murdoch and Western Australia.

Further reading

Jack Davis, Indigenous Australia, from A Boy’s Life, Magabala Books, Broome, 1991

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