(Waskam) Emelda Davis is the first Australian South Sea Islander (ASSI) of diverse indigenous heritage to serve on the Lord Mayoral governing team of the City of Sydney Council in its 180-year history. A strong advocate for First Nations, ASSI, cultural diversity, and greater inclusion. For well over a decade Emelda has spearheaded a voluntary social justice campaign as founding chair of the national body ASSI – Port Jackson which consulted widely on the National ASSI Association constitution supported by Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers and was a lead for the recent Pacific Island Forum Secretariat peer review on Labour Mobility. Emelda exhibits deep respect and diverse insight with sound expertise and lived experience in community capacity building, education, and training.

A strong commitment to climate change effects Emelda has received numerous awards for her advocacy and commitment to advancing marginalised community groups at large and support for Pacific nations affected by cyclone devastation. Emelda played a key role in the establishment of the Pacific Advisory panel for the Australian Museum which holds one of the largest Melanesian ancestral relics collections in the southern hemisphere.

Other advisory roles include the Board of Trustees for the International Coalition Sites of Conscious and Sydney NSW – International Council on Monuments and Sites ‘Caring for Country’ committee and is the first ASSI person to complete a master’s in oral histories ‘Children of the Sugar Slaves; Black & Resilient.’ More recently Emelda has keynoted as part of 2021 Raising Peace – First Nations Day global zoom week and is a dedicated committee member for the COVID-19 response Health Directory for Pacific Communities.

Elected in 2021 Emelda serves our city as the Deputy Chair of ‘Resilient Communities Committee’, is the Lord Mayor delegate on the ‘Indigenous Advisory Panel’, LMD on the ‘Multicultural Advisory Panel’ and is the Alternate Chair for both Local Pedestrian Cycling & Traffic Calming Committee and Central City Planning coupled with Council representative to City Business events and Community Advocacy Groups. More recently Emelda’s work this year saw her City of Sydney Council motion receive a bipartisan vote for the recognition and support for Australian South Sea Islanders and the ASSI flag will fly annually over Sydney Town Hall on the 25th of August – ASSI Recognition Day. A follow-up co-signed email by Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Clr Davis was distributed to 500 councils across Australia encouraging colleagues co to consider a motion along the same lines.

A key lesson Emelda shares during this interview is the history and ancestral trauma of “Blackbirding” in Australia and how Australia business stole generations of Pacific Islander men, women and children to come and work on the sugar cane plantations and other similar large crops being introduced in the early formation of Australian industry. The link below gives you some insight about what Australian’s did in their history to our Pacific Islander neighbours. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-17/blackbirding-australias-history-of-kidnapping-pacific-islanders/8860754

Some wonderful quotes in this interview from our guest:

“Wherever I am in the world or working, I’ve always tried to provide a pathway for those that wouldn’t necessarily have that opportunity because I know someone did that for me and that’s my grounding in everything I do.” “Kindness is critical right? Like at this time in this age always and that’s how you want your family treated so who am I to impose or make you feel any less than when I don’t feel like I belong in myself? Yeah, so how do I change that? I lead by example. Yeah, it’s inclusivity.” “Your mental health is key to any kind of success in life. We’ve got to do the work, right? We’ve got to try and look within.” “It’s so true, you show up. But you know, in sharing with young people about leadership, it’s 80% of the time it’s about showing up, getting up, showing up, and doing the work. The rest will come.”

The link to this wonderful interview is found below. Thanks Emelda for sharing your story so honestly and with so much humility.

To listen to all episodes on The Courage to Lead Interview Series the link below will take you there. https://allansicard.com/podcasts