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Davey Lee's story

‘Our children, black and white, they have to be protected from things that happened to us. We can take the pain, but the next generation can’t take that on.’

Davey doesn’t remember much of the first Aboriginal mission he lived on, ‘just a lily that grows in and around’ there. In the late 1950s, when he was around five years old, he and his mum moved to a different mission, run by the government in northern Queensland.

They were separated when he was seven – Davey placed into the dormitory while his mum lived in the women’s quarters. Around this time she had a breakdown and ended up being taken away from the mission. ‘To this day I realise why did she snap. And the bond of a mother and a son, you can’t do that ... In our law, you can’t do it ... It done a lot of damage.’

As a young boy Davey was vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological abuse from the staff and other kids. One of the men who worked there spat on him, ‘and the people they laugh at you and call you names, and you can’t do a thing, outnumbered’.

He was sexually abused by a number of older boys, one of whom raped him.

Davey knew the boys who targeted him were being sexually and physically abused too. ‘All the bigger boys were getting punched about, and some of the bigger boys were getting raped too.’

At 10 of age he left the mission and moved back in with family. Around this time ‘my ancestors started to come to me’.

He was a very angry teenager. ‘I kept most of it with me through the years, until I got into my teens. That’s when things started happening, a lot of anger started coming out.’ Other people didn’t understand why he acted out.

‘It done a lot of damage to me. You know, fighting with society and law. And people didn’t understand what I was coming at – I was taking my anger out on the police and everybody.

‘Because of the things that happened to the little fellas. And they don’t know how to handle it, the only one way we had to handle it is to fight ...

‘What affects the mind affects the spirit, even today.’

Davey missed a lot of school while on the mission, and taught himself to read and write in later life. He took off from his family in his mid-teens, finding work in various towns.

Once when he was working somebody called him a ‘poofter’, and enraged, he attacked the person. ‘Because whatever happened to me when I was a kid, I’m not gay ... They don’t know the fight that I fought mentally and spiritually ... And they think it’s a joke. It’s a not a joke when you’re interfering with someone’s feelings.’

Married twice, he had kids to both his wives and another partner, and today looks after some of them on his own. After abusing alcohol for years he is now on the road to sobriety. ‘I need help on that too, it’s a battle. Being a cultural man ... I got to do the best I can.’

It has been hard for Davey to trust people throughout his life. ‘When everything start coming at you, the past and present, and we don’t know who’s who. And someone can stab you in the back quick. That’s why like that, the way we are. We got to be watching our backs too ... It’s a way of living.’

Davey maintains strong connections with his culture and ancestors. ‘That’s what’s protecting me today, is just my skin line and my song line.’ He is now an elder and intends to soon settle ‘out in the bush’ on his country.

‘I’m a survivor and a battler. I fought mostly all my life to be where I am. Try to do the best I can ...You’ve got to be a fighter. Some people ride with the punch but some don’t.’

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