“My dad is Aboriginal/Chinese, and my mum is Maori, Spanish, Irish and Aboriginal,” David Page told FilmInk in 2003. “That’s so common really… it’s the invasion of white colonisation, and the station owners having affairs with Aboriginal women. We’re evidence of this. People say ‘Why are you saying you’re Aboriginal when you have all this other blood?’ And I say ‘Well, why do you say you’re Australian?’ The Aboriginal culture is so complex. We’re slowly breaking down those barriers, and we’re also trying to re-educate the film industry as well as the public.”
A descendant of the Nunkul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh tribe from south-east Queensland, Page joined the world famous Bangarra Dance Company in 1991 as resident composer, and was appointed an artist-in-residence in 2011, before taking his most recent role as music director. He composed the wonderfully textural, highly emotive music for 27 of the company’s shows, picking up an armful of awards along the way, and also contributed music to the Opening Ceremonies of The Sydney Olympic Games, The Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, and, in 2002, The Sydney Dreaming Festival. His 2003 stage show, Page 8, was a stunning one-man performance, mixing music, dance, and autobiography via a collection of candid and illuminating childhood super 8 movies.
David Page first enjoyed national stardom at the tender age of thirteen when his dulcet voice was used to charming effect on two hit singles. You might recall those cheeky appearances on Countdown and The Paul Hogan Show as Little Davey Page. Though now a national institution, The Bangarra Dance Company only became a home-ground success after they’d been welcomed overseas, garnering rave reviews and big houses. Almost overnight, they were touted as ambassadors for Australia. “Suddenly the government said ‘Okay, here’s some money.’ It’s quite unfair, but this is what you live with, and this is what you have to fight through to get to your goals at the end of the day,” Page told FilmInk. “This is the fight.”
David Page was also a regular on screen, appearing on TV’s Prisoner and Black Comedy, and even briefly in Gillian Armstrong’s Oscar And Lucinda. “I once had fifteen minutes of fame…well, more like fifteen seconds actually,” he told FilmInk. “I was in Oscar And Lucinda as an Aboriginal busker. Ralph Fiennes comes up and throws money in my tin.” Page’s greatest on-screen moment, however, remains his work in Green Bush, the acclaimed third short from director, Warwick Thornton (The Sapphires, Samson & Delilah). As a shit-stirring community radio DJ – a ray of sunshine in an often dark and violent culture – Page is charismatic and compelling, though getting the role was a total fluke. “The slated lead actor just didn’t turn up for the audition,” Page explained. “He wasn’t there. So Warwick just said, ‘Hop in there, you’re doing it.’ So I basically just winged it and had ten minutes to look at the script.”
A true creative explorer in every sense of the term, David Page was a vital voice not just for our indigenous communities, but for Australia as a whole. He will be sadly missed, and this country will be much poorer for the fascinating work – both on stage and on screen – that he most surely would have continued to produce.