An original poetry reading and rousing performances on the didgeridoo and Native American flute delighted Reconciliation Queensland members and guests when Jeremy Donovan joined us at Mitchelton Library for the RQI Speaker Series.

Jeremy ‘Yongurra’ Donovan is an internationally renowned artist and during his talk on Saturday, 16 November 2019, he presented us with a Nescafe coffee tin decorated with one of his designs.

Jeremy descends from the Kuku-Yalanji tribe of far Northern Queensland.

For a time, Jeremy had been raised by foster parents into Maori culture and this had come to define him completely, until he discovered he had an Aboriginal father.

As an infant, Jeremy Donovan had been made a ward of the state and was abused in institutional care. This contributed to his incarceration as a teenager, an experience he never forgot.

“It was easier for me to learn about my Aboriginal identity inside prison, than it was on the outside of prison,” Jeremy recalled.

“When I first when into Kariong Juvenile Detention Centre at 13 years old it was 81 per cent Indigenous kids. Today, it’s 73, so it hasn’t changed a bit,” he said.

“I was in Darwin last week working in Dondale Correction Centre and right now 100 per cent of the kids in jail are Aboriginal.

“It’s a reality that once shaped my life and unfortunately shapes so many of the lives of young Aboriginal people today.”

Jeremy Donovan’s life changing moment

Meeting his Aboriginal grandfather was the point at which everything began to change for Jeremy.

“What do you want to be?” his grandfather had asked of him. He told Jeremy he could either be a prison number, or he could dream to become somebody.

“If you can sit in all of your shadows and still find the moon, you will know your way home,” his grandfather had said, and these words came back to Jeremy as he looked through the wire at the night sky from his cell.

There was the moon. Jeremy Donovan knew there had to be more to life.

Jeremy has since gone on to forge a very successful career and raise a family of his own.

While he now spends much of time now travelling the globe to promote his music and art, he is also available as a keynote speaker through his Walking with Wisdom consultancy. Contact him on Linkedin or Twitter.

He spoke to our members and guests about the many highs he experienced, as well as the lows, and read an original poem, published below with his permission.

Terra Nulius

Terra Nulius was declared as Cook invaded this sacred shore, instantly dismissing our existence let alone our ancient lore.
But now we’re calling for change rewrite what was written wrong, because this is our place of dreaming this is where we belong.
Yet this discussion forces many into anger and attack, but every time you deny invasion you March this nation back.
What are you afraid of surely not shame, this is about truth not pointing any blame? We must rewrite the wrongs of how this land was built, surely, you’re beyond the bones of ancestral stolen guilt?
I’m tired of hearing you say ‘Get over it’ this hits a painful nerve; we don’t say that on ANZAC Day as we bow our heads to observe.
There is no shame in admitting the history wrote it wrong, nor are we saying this is OUR country it’s not where you belong.
Its 250 years what’s big deal, wouldn’t you prefer the truth despite how it makes you feel.
So, if you’re saying this or simply having that thought, wouldn’t you prefer true history was something finally taught.
When I talk of the red blood stain spilt across this land, it’s not to make you uncomfortable just help you understand.
When I tell you of our stolen children it’s not to tear us apart, it’s just helps us carry burden too big for our aching heart.
The truth is it only took 15 minutes before they fired their first gun, that’s a part of history that simply cannot be undone.
So, it’s time to change the words and call it for was, Invasion is the truth a stolen dreaming of the land we now call OZ.

Reconciliation Queensland is so very grateful to Jeremy Donovan for sharing his story, poetry and music us. His wise words and incredible generosity of spirit had everyone smiling.

This was yet another memorable RQI Speaker Series event. View Jeremy’s entire presentation on YouTube below.

Reconciliation Queensland has undertaken to hold RQI Speaker Series events every two months. Everyone who has an interest in reconciliation is welcome to join us. Check out our Event Calendar for upcoming events.