Deadly Yarns - Uncle David's story


​​​​A blessed life - Uncle David Miller

Uncle David Miller has worked hard all his life and in retirement continues to volunteer his time with Murri Ministries, on various boards and committees and at his granddaughters' school. Life has not always been easy for Uncle David, but he does not see it like that. When we asked him about his life, his response was simple – “I have been blessed". Here is his story.   

I WAS born in Yeppoon, which I think has the best beach in Australia.

I am a descendent of the Gangulu people of central Queensland. 

Before I talk about my life, I want to take a step back and tell you about my grandmother, Sarah Toby. 

In 1897, when the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act was passed, she and her daughter Nellie were rounded up, with hundreds of other Aboriginal people, and placed into Cherbourg.

They said it was for their protection, but the truth was they were being taken away from their homeland.  

My mother was born in Banana.

She was a young child when she, her sister and two brothers were taken away from their Mum.

They were taken away because their father was not Aboriginal.

At eight years of age she started working as a domestic on central Queensland stations. She had to work wherever she was sent.

She worked on a station in Aramac, where I started school.

When she was 22 years old, she applied for exemption papers.

These papers meant she could pick where she was going to work but it also meant she could not contact her Aboriginal family.

She never saw her mother again.

She was not even allowed to return to Cherbourg for her funeral.  

My mother was a single mum and worked hard all her life. 

She worked as a cook at the Marlborough Hotel, on the way to Mackay and then we moved to Rockhampton.

I finished school in Year 8 and got my first job as the base operator for a Rockhampton taxi service.  

I had a few years in New Zealand picking fruit in the summer months and pruning the trees in the winter.

I travelled around in a minivan with some of the other pickers. It was a great time, but I got sick of the sight of apples!  

In 1968 my mum passed away and I went back to Rockhampton and got a job in the E.S. Lucas retail store.

It was the first store to have an escalator in Rockhampton, so everyone thought it was pretty fancy.

I then moved to Brisbane and got a job at David Jones (DJs) Department Store..

I worked with them for 37 years.

My first role was checking our goods as they arrived at the Hamilton wharf.

I wanted to earn more money, so got a job as Despatch Manager at DJs in Garden City, had a transfer to Toombul and finished my career as DJs Logistics Manager in Queen Street. 

I can honestly say I did not feel discriminated against in my career.

I heard racial comments a couple of times and I just put it down to ignorance, I did not let it affect me.

I have a lot of respect for myself, I think people see this and gave me respect back.  

When my son, Damien, was 11-years-old and my daughter, Belinda, was nine-years-old I became a single Dad.

I made sure my children went to good schools - Damien went to St Joseph's Nudgee College and Belinda to All Hallows' College. 

Sometimes I had holes in my shoes, but I knew their education was important, so I did not mind.

They have both done really well – Damien is a diplomat and Belinda is a television producer.

I am proud of them.  

My passion is justice, justice for everybody.

I think what has happened in the US, with the death of an African American by the police, is a disgrace.

I support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) marches here in Australia.

They have been peaceful, and I know they said prayers in Musgrave Park.

The BLM protests in the US have given us a platform to talk about deaths in custody here. I hope these deaths will stop.  

I cannot believe some of the racist comments that come from shock jocks on commercial media and some politicians.

It is sad that people listen to them and believe them.

I do not think a panel of white people should be discussing Aboriginal problems – we want people to work with us, not dictate to us.  

I think all Australians need to be educated about our true history and understand the past. 

Educators need to be educated so they pass that information on.

Just recently the Prime Minister said there had been no Aboriginal slavery, really?

He had to come back the next day and apologise – it just shows how much people do not know and how they need to be educated.  

Yarning circles are really powerful, and I think there should be more yarning circles to educate and share the stories.

I introduced a yarning circle into my church, and it has been good for us.

It is a way to communicate, to listen, and respect the speaker.  

I think we are heading towards a brighter future, with more Aboriginal people in the professional workforce.

My grandkids will not have to struggle like the generations before them.  

Looking back, I have had a blessed life.

I have raised wonderful kids and I am blessed to have my grandchildren in my life. 


Uncle David's story is the second in the Deadly Yarns series developed by the NAIDOC working group. Look out for more stories which will be released over the coming months in the lead-up to NAIDOC Week events 8-15 November. 

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