Jack Davis (Jack Leonard Davis) Biography
(1917–2000), (Jack Leonard Davis), Identity, The First-Born and Other Poems
Australian poet and dramatist; the son of part-Aboriginal parents, he belongs to the Aboriginal Bibbulmun tribe of Western Australia. He worked for many years on cattle stations in the north of the state, a bitter experience which led him to return to Perth as a champion of the Aboriginal cause. He later became manager of the Perth Aboriginal Centre in 1967, director of the Aboriginal Advancement Council in the state in 1969, and joint editor of the Aboriginal magazine Identity from 1973 to 1979; in the latter capacity he encouraged the writing of Archie Weller. The First-Born and Other Poems (1970) established Davis's poetic talent and commitment to the cause of Aboriginal rights, and a second volume, Jagardoo: Poems from Aboriginal Australia, appeared in 1978; both volumes reflect Davis's alertness both to Aboriginal heritage and to the issues of contemporary society. Further collections are John Pat and Other Poems (1988) and A Black Life (1992). A vivid and moving realism accounts for his success in the theatre: the problems Aboriginal people confront in Australian cities today were addressed in The Dreamers (1973), a one-act play which was revised and developed in 1982. Kullark (1979) was his sobering contribution to Western Australia's 150th anniversary; it presented case histories of the treatment of Aboriginal people and argued powerfully for a change in basic attitudes. The plays No Sugar (1985) and Barungin: Smell the Wind (1989) continued Davis's determination to keep Aboriginal history at the centre of contemporary Australian debate, as did In Our Town (1992), which deals with the racist response to a romance between an Aboriginal hero of the Second World War and a white woman. A Boy's Life, an autobiography of his childhood in the 1920s and 1930s, was published in 1991. He is the editor of Paperback (1990), an anthology of Black Australian writing.
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