Jay Travers shares his story as part of National Reconciliation Week
As we mark National Reconciliation Week, proud Yiman/Wadja man and Driver Trainer Jay Travers shares his family’s story, his insights on reconciliation and his career with Aurizon.
Binbi karri (hello in traditional Wadja language).
My name is Jay Travers, and I am a descendant of the Yiman and Wadja people. I am a Driver Trainer based at Aurizon’s Stanwell Operations Depot in Central Queensland, situated on Darumbal country.
Over the years, many of my family and extended family have been employed by the railway as labourers, track workers, workshops staff, train guards, carriage cleaners, track machine drivers and train drivers, so I guess you could say working on or around the railways is in my blood.
My Grandfather was a Yiman man. His country is Taroom and the surrounds in Central Queensland. His totem Buderoo, is the green tree frog. My Grandmother was a Wadja woman, her country is Woorabinda and the surrounding area which is also situated in Central Queensland. Her totem Winna, is the freshwater eel. Totems carry significant spiritual importance, and you inherit your totem from your mother to the best of my knowledge. Your totem defined your role and responsibilities within your mob. It was also a form of conservation as you were forbidden from eating your totem.
I was born in Rockhampton, on Darumbal country on the Toonooba - the Fitzroy River in Central Queensland. Our family has, and continues to have, a close relationship with the Darumbal community and Darumbal Elders. My siblings were born on Darumbal country, and my three sons, my nieces and nephews were all born on Darumbal country.
Indigenous culture has a rich tradition of passing knowledge and skills from elders to the next generation. I have been fortunate to watch and learn from elders in my family and the community. I have watched firsthand how patient they are when they are passing on their knowledge and I have observed the high standards they set for themselves and their expectation that the next generation will follow these standards.
I have witnessed their strong leadership qualities in good times and in difficult times and it has inspired and challenged me to be my best. My career at Aurizon has similarly inspired and challenged me to be my best. From my entry as an Electrician almost 25 years ago, I have learnt from wonderful leaders and mentors along my career journey. With their support and mentorship, and with never ending encouragement from my family, I have transitioned from an Electrician to a trainee Locomotive Driver, then a qualified Locomotive Driver and now to my current role as a Driver Trainer – a role that I have enjoyed for over a decade now.
The role of a Driver Trainer is similar to that of an elder and I have found myself passing on my knowledge, skills and encouragement to Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees as they look to grow and develop both at work and within the community. I hope my actions and standards inspire and challenge the next generation to be the best that they can be. I wish to thank Aurizon for providing me with wonderful opportunities, for supporting my journey and giving me the privilege of being a teacher, a leader and an elder.
While I carry out my role as a trainer, I am still continually seeking to learn and discover more about our Indigenous culture and heritage – unfortunately this is difficult at times as in the past our people were forbidden to practice their culture and pass on their knowledge. Conservation of culture and heritage is of the utmost importance to preserve as much as possible before that knowledge is lost forever.
National Reconciliation Week is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians. We must work together as communities and as a country to overcome racism, closing the gap, creating more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, learning from our shared history and acknowledge the wrongs of the past and move towards recognition of First Nations people in our constitution.
Aurizon’s Reconciliation Action Plan gives us assistance, the tools and the guidance to ensure that Aurizon has increased cultural diversity throughout the organisation to better operate in communities across Australia.
I believe I am standing here on the shoulders of all those who came before me, because of their hard work and determination, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. I am living workplace opportunities that were not available to First Nations people as little as 40 years ago. When my career began almost 25 years ago, I had no idea of the pathways it would take me. I certainly had no idea that I would have the opportunities available to me to grow, with the support of mentors and colleagues along the way.
I am proud of the ground-breaking work that has occurred within Aurizon, and we are determined to ensure this continues. I am proud to wear an Aurizon uniform as I sincerely believe it gives me an opportunity to give back to my culture, show respect to my culture and elders and show a pathway for Indigenous people to follow, and given the assistance, the tools and the guidance, they will achieve greater goals than us who came before them.
Reconciliation begins at the local community level; I am happy to be a small part of linking the Aurizon community to the local First Nations community. These links are a huge step in the direction of the goal of reconciliation being business as usual.
Reconciliation takes many shapes and forms; it can be as simple as supporting local Indigenous sport teams with fundraising. We sent our sons to a local Indigenous kindy program to immerse them in First Nations culture and heritage. We have also sent our youngest son to the Brolga Program – a science, country, culture and community program for Indigenous students.
I encourage you all to get involved, as we walk together on our shared reconciliation journey. It’s what we do as individuals and as a collective that will truly make the difference.