Season 1, Episode 7
Benjamin Starr interviews the amazing multi-skilled, musical, dancing entertainer David Hudson.
David has performed in many theatres all over the world and worked with A-list celebrities Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. David shares with us his love of his indigenous culture, music and dance.
Read the transcript
Benjamin Starr: OK we are driving our own adventure, we have had a reference from more than four or five people that we’ve got to meet this guy called David. And he keeps saying tell us about David they said you got to meet David. David is David. So, it we did a bit of research and it’s always great when you’re out on the road you never know who you’re going to meet. David you have an amazing career, not only are you internationally renowned for your wonderful musicianship but you’re an entertainer, presenter. You do so much work in the world of dance as well, and you are really one of these people that – you knew a man called Marlon Brando which we’ll get to in a few minutes. I mean you know you look like Marlon Brando as well. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
David Hudson: Oh, look I’m well, first I want to acknowledge that we are on traditional country into the Gimuy-walubarra yidi
David: And the Yirrganydji people. But I’m David Hudson my my language name is Dumaran. My father’s side is Ewamian people and my mother side is Western Yalanji. But born and raised in Cairns.
David: So, after I finished school in the seventies I jumped in my motor car and drive out to Alice Springs to venture out into the big wide world.
David: It is very different to where I come from.
Ben: Into the backyard?
David: We’re surrounded by greens blues and I when you go to the desert desert that was a big learning curve for me. So being a cultural person I have always played didgeridoo growing up as a young kid.
David: So that more or less became my voice for me as the pied Piper, so I had a thing called the ancient voice of the future.
David: And so, at that stage already I started playing more professionally as a muso, you know. I play guitar and learnt kit drums at school, played sax and clarinet so I was very fortunate that I – I keep using the terminology “‘fortunate'” because, that’s what I’m saying not lucky I was fortunate that I grew up with people with mum’s, brothers and sisters who encouraged us to go onto a bigger and better things. Because you know, my mum was raised on a mission – an aboriginal mission. And the reason why she was born there was because my grandmother was forcibly removed from her traditional homelands and taken to the mission which is in Kuranda.
David: Hence, while we were born and raised in Cairns and Kuranda but as I say my additional homelands go to the west Savannah country its very volcanic and with famous for a hot springs and lava tubes that ago underground.
Ben: Yes, we’ve heard a bit about those lava tubes.
David: Well yeah you would have heard that from Bram Collins and so Bram Collins and I go way back when we were kids, and I’m older than Bram so, but I’ve always had a very close connection to the Collins family.
David: And we’ve had a very good close connection because a lot of my uncles and aunts and cousins worked on the station either as ringers, cowboys.
Ben: Right yeah, yeah. We heard we heard about Nobby the beast and we wanted to know whether he had two brothers called Nuts. Is that how Nobby’s Nuts came about? I had to get that line in some point in this whole podcast.
David: I think they were salted too!
Ben: It’s interesting how a mule, it is interesting how a beast found where they were gonna live. The animal knew exactly where to go, it just went for water and yeah amazing story. So, your family were heavily involved with all that.
David: Yeah absolutely and that’s my traditional homelands out towards Undara and Mount Surprize. So, my traditional homelands are huge, we are bigger than Victoria and Tasmania. And so, in Australia you know when you when you come downunder the people don’t fully realise how big Australia really is.
David: You know to drive from one side of my homelands to the to the other side its seven hours car drive, you know.
Ben: It’s ironic though, your home land’s that big and its a, it’s only taken to recent times to get someone into parliament to sort of speak for the Aboriginal people.
David: Well its 2019 and here we are and, on that point, there Mabo the Mabo decision came about in 1992.
Ben: That’s right.
David: So it took us twenty years to actually get a voice, a voice to have native title on my traditional homelands.
Ben: That’s right.
David: So realistically, yeah whether you want Native Title, or you don’t want Native Title, we have Native Title which means it gives us a voice. We now have an Aboriginal flag flying outside the Etheridge Shire Council which is huge. It would have never happened prior to that. Yeah that and we got some positive stuff happening out there. We own Tularoo Station which was a working cattle station. But we got rid of all the cattle because we want to turn back into a nature healing refuge, you know.
Ben: Very good idea.
David: So, we got some dollars now from the state, we are gonna build ourselves a cultural healing center.
David: And we’ll turn soil in October this year.
Ben: Good on you!
David: And in you 2020 September we should be opening, so you got to come back and visit us. At at the Tullaroo Hot Springs.
Ben: We’ve heard all about those hot springs and will Chris might be one of the first persons to dip in. He’s very excited. He is traveling with us about those hot springs.
David: Well you have got to dip into the spa.
Ben: Yeah eighty degrees isn’t it?
David Yeah eighty degrees! So so if you put your foot in there you’ll come out footless.
Ben: It’s interesting like in in the world that we’re living in now, the white fella would talk about mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder and everyone wants treatment there’s a tablet for this and a tablet for that people don’t deal with things. Your people literally lost their entire identity in a very short time and probably suffered more depression and anxiety and what we call post-traumatic stress, but you and your grandparents and fore-bearers seem to have an inbuilt mechanism of coping beyond the pain.
David: I cope beyond the pain because because one
David: I wasn’t raised on a mission. My mother always said to me, David without your cultural identity you are like a tree without its roots. So I always, always took things like that on board and I remember that and so that’s why it’s my duty of care and to go out there and promote who I am as an indigenous Australian and educate people. I call myself an edutainer and when I’m traveling around the world I’m a global messenger.
Ben: Yes, so you’re out there educating for the youth of today you know it in your mob. What are you trying to teach these kids? What do need to understand about this world that they’ve been born into.
David: Well we’ve got to build some infrastructure, you know infrastructure in regards to training centers, rehabilitation centers on country. Get the kids away from the city life. Get them away from McDonalds, go bush and learn off the land.
Ben: Do you even think that’s for white kids as well?
David: Yeah absolutely!
Ben: I think it’s not just for the Aboriginals.
David: No, you can’t just say it’s just for indigenous Australians. It’s for everybody. red, white, black or brindle. Because at the end of the day, you cut your skin, you cut my skin we all bleed red. Yep. So, we are all part of one race, that’s the human race.
Ben: What can tourism teach people coming up here?
David: Oh, tourism is all about employment you know. If you know if we can get our mob away from the doldrums of just doing nothing, it creates employment. With our hot springs center that’s going to create jobs for landscaping.
Ben: How did you discover this place, was it always there or did you just stumble on it?
David: No, it’s on my traditional homelands and twenty years ago we had a vision that would need to buy something so they our mob could come back to what you would call homelands.
David: And we chose about, there was there was about six different stations that we looked at but we was kept getting drawn back to Tularoo and Tularoo was all about the hot springs and we right next to the Einasleigh River and on the on the Einasleigh River they have these huge, they are big grooves that are twenty four inches long and you know, and eight inches deep and they are made by our people that have been sharpening stone axes on grinding stones.
David: And we thought that’s got to be the place there. And at Tularoo in the 1890s, in the further research we did a massacre took place there between white fellows and my people.
David: And it was at that time it was called Skulls Camp. Now we’ve owned Tularoo for eight years, so the first thing we did was get in there and and change all these names and turn negatives into positives. So, we got rid of the word Skull Camp and called it Memorial Park.
David: There were road crossings that are called Nigga Creek.
David: They’re gone. You know. So it’s about empowering our people, getting people back on the country so they can come out there, swim, catch fish and walk on country where our fore-mothers and fore-fathers walked countless generations ago.
Ben: So, in a way, what you’re starting to do is health tourism. It’s like becoming a healing center for people to come to reconnect with who they are if they’ve lost who they are, to find their own identity somehow.
David: Yeah, we have to get these mobs and when I say it’s mobs its folks like yourself. There is more to Australia than just coming to a place like Cairns.
David: You know and I’ve always argued with tourism, these entities that always just think about the reef and rain forest R&R. So, what about the other R which stands for rock art culture. And so last year we all went out to Undara with Bram and it was a tourism forum and it was fantastic because we had a lot of these these tourism heads who wouldn’t go beyond the Atherton Tablelands so they are out there for the first time in thirty years and going wow I didn’t realize that an hour and a half this way it’s Savannah country and it’s volcanic and we are going well it’s always been here. You fellas just don’t venture out to the west.
Ben: The Aboriginal people always had a great way of looking after the environment. I mean you know. I went out to Alice Springs and stood there at Uluru and I thought they were clever. They dug a hole a meter back from the river, they bathed in that. they let it fill up then they’d covered it up. They never put their body into the river system into create pollution and we’ve just been hearing on the the the various interviews we are doing up here impact on the environment up here is, and it’s everywhere now is detrimental. I mean there’s knock on effects. There is species dying out that will never come back. You never thought you’d live in a world where you be seeing all this.
David: Well I think that’s the same scenario you know. They say that the Barrier Reef is dying well it’s it’s not dying, it’s it’s alive and well. It’ll live on like my culture, it’ll live on full for another.
Ben: It can take a beating, but it can come back.
David: It’ll take a beating, but you know whose beating it – humans. People on two legs. They’re the ones that do the damage. It’s exactly, it doesn’t matter where we are on this world of ours.
David: Why is the salt sea in Israel? Well who’s doing it? Man. Man does this. So, man’s gotta learn to live off indigenous people, learn our skills and our ways.
Ben: Well I think that’s the important thing that the indigenous culture can offer. I mean it in a way you can be the guys that save the planet because the white fellas has no clue.
David:And it’s it’s important as well with control traditional burning.
David: We all know in Australia we all know that the serious bush fires in Victoria and New South Wales and Western Australia. Queensland don’t have that to that degree. Why? It’s because Queensland’s they practice traditional controlled burning.
David: We know want to burn country and weed out the weeds.
Ben: That’s right.
David: So, you weed out the weeds. What happens is you get bird life that comes back.
Ben: That’s right.
David: You get to have those seeds and you have green grasses.
Ben: There is a whole knock on effect.
David: It’s all the the chain that’s what it is all about.
Ben: Now tell us, speaking of tourism. You had the pleasure of meeting a guy. I mean Hollywood’s had a big impact on this joint up here and you you got to meet some pretty cool characters, but who’s this guy that you met?
David: Yeah, I got to meet Marlon Brando and and work with him for three months.
David: And I was in. I met Richard Stanley. Richard Stanley and is an English director; and I had a phone call from Richard Stanley. He said, “oh hello David, my name is Richard and I’m coming to Australia and i’d like to offer you a job”. And I said, “oh ok”. So, we met in Sydney and said to me “I’ve got a job, I want you to be the choreographer for this film called The Island of Doctor Moreau.” I said okay. And I said to him how did you find me? Because I’m a little fella from up Cairns way in north Queensland. And he said, “oh and he says, ” I saw you performing at the Shore Theater in west end in London with your dance troupe and I was in the audience and I saw you on stage being a kangaroo and an emu and I thought wow I want that bloke up there to be my choreographer”. An I said okay fantastic! and I said what sort of animals are we talking, and he goes “oh we are talking leopards and chimpanzees and monkeys and hyenas” and I said mate we don’t have those animals in Australia. He said, “well it’s up to you to go and do your research and take it from there” and I said who’s in the film and he said “well we’ve got Val Kilmer and Ron Perlman and Marlon Brando” I said Marlon Brando, what are you kidding me! And I was tapping me wife under the table and like, this bloke, he has been smoking the old hoochie coochie!
David: He said “no, no, no, no we’ve got Marlon Brando”. I said wow
Ben: You were sold!
David: I said where is this film going to be shot? “Oh, it is also going to be shot in a place called Cairns in far north Queensland.” I said – I’m there. This is my home.
Ben: So, you got to meet these people?
David: Yeah, all these people fly in, Val Kilmer flies in, whoever you know Temuera Morrison once he played Jake the muscle from Once Were Warriors and blah blah blah. “Once Were Warriors” and Marlon Brando flies in and now I said to Richard I said I want a role in this. And he and he said, “well um do you like buffalos” Aw I said Aw I love buffaloes. He goes “all right you can be the bison man”. So, I had the job as the bison man.
Ben: How cool!
David: So the first the first two weeks I’m now I’m now fully dressed up as a bison. It takes two hours of prostetics to put on your face. and now I’ve got a hoof and I’ve got teeth and my make-up artist he’s got the remote control to control my blinking and make my ears wiggles and that sort of stuff and so we’ll get to meet Mr Brando and and Johns. Richard Stanley got the sack so we had a month off so in that month off I just had a great time taking Brando up to me mum’s house at Kuranda.
Ben: How amazing!
David: and Val Kilmer made him diggeridoos and that sort of stuff.
Ben: And when you hang out with these guys, what what did what did Hollywood teach you about the world?
David: Oh Hollywood is just plastic you know. It’s a it’s a concrete jungle.
Ben: Yeah and I think they must have loved the connection of being away from all that and they are now suddenly in the hills and it’s it’s almost normal for them isn’t it?
David: Well Marlon Brando I yeah even though Marlon Brandon stayed at the Maddison Plaza. He had the ability to go and eat at a restaurant in Cairns where no one really gave a hoot.
Ben: Yeah good!
David: Because you know you’re dealing with Aussies here. You’re not dealing with the paparazzi from the big smoke or Los Angeles.
Ben: I mean you’re talking about a big star that time a big big star. Now did you take him; did he love fishing and all that sort of stuff?
David: Well on the set it was it was great because I got to meet him, but when he meets me, yeah he met us all.
Ben: What did he say to you?
David: one is the bore man, one the bison man. one’s a hyena.
David: So, I’m a I’m a bison and then I’d I’d put out my big hoof.
Ben: I bet you did.
David: to meet him. and he he goes “oh what’s your name?” Oh I said my name is David and he goes “but I have no idea what you look like” and I said you will have go to my caravan before I get dressed up you know. He said, “oh beautiful this is fantastic.”
Ben: That’s how he spoke?
David: He speaks like he’s from Missouri.
Ben: It is so different!
David: He’s got this sort of like godfather accent. but he’s got this little lisp as well.
Ben: Oh really!
David: Yeah. And so, I get a phone call. And I said gday, how ya going. And he said “hello is that David? I said hi yeah. And he says, “hi David this is Marlon” and I’m going ”who” because I didn’t believe it because I thought it was one of my mates just playing a joke on me. And he goes “No, no David, I work with you. I’ve been working with you for two weeks” I’m like, I put the phone to my chest and I said to Ziggy, I said I think this is Marlon Brando. And he said, “Hey Dave are you there” And I’m going yeah, I’m here. He said “I’ve just been hearing some of your music, it’s beautiful” I’m going oh well, thank you so much. I said whilst I have got you, would you be happy to come up and visit my family and my mum and yeah we’ll cook you a traditional meal. And he said, “that would be fantastic David”. So my mum says “come on everybody, lunch is ready” and so my mum, you know she’s the boss of the table so I go Dave you sit there Benny you sit over there and she says to Marlon “Marlon, how old are you?” and he goes “oh Mrs Hudson I’m seventy eight” and she goes “well I’’m eighty two so sit down there” so she’s like telling him “you sit down there” “yes, yes Mrs Hudson”.
Ben: Really, unbelievable!
David: and his plate was like, it was full.
David: Like a mountain. I said I thought you was supposed to be vegetarian. And he goes “oh well, you know, I don’t really give a shit.” (both laughing)
Ben: So, he is a really cool guy.
David: Oh no he was fine I loved him because he’s always been a great a great ambassador for indigenous cultures worldwide.
Ben: Now that’s interesting, that’s interesting.
David: Well you’ve got to remember in the seventies, when he won an academy award, he got he got a female native American to go up and get the award, not him. That’s right he’s making a point.
Ben: He is making an absolute point.
David: He is making a point there and when he came here we gave him boomerangs and that and a didgeridoo. And the boomerang was not just to get to Marlon Brando but a boomerang is very significant it’s a powerful tool, you know it’s that’s thing of returnable so if you ever return to Australia you bring that boomerang back with you.
Ben: It comes with you.
David: Yeah yeah.
Ben: When you were hanging out with him, I mean you got to you get to go to America of course.
Ben: I mean you’re one of the lucky guys, you get to travel the world, you’ve seen all these people, you’re in London. So, you get over there and you go to his house. What was his house like?
David: Oh, look I rang Carol. I said I’m David Hudson from Kuranda. She said, “oh my gosh, Marlon is going to be so excited”. So, she gave me his number and I said ring and I said Oh hello is that Marlon. He said, “oh no, I know it’s you David Hudson.” So, he gives me a vehicle. I go to his house on Mulholland Drive.
David: And we’re sitting there just having a cup of tea and chilling.
Ben: As you do
David: Having a chin wag and he says “oh you gonna play the didgeridoo for me.” And I said yeah okay. So, he goes to get the didge and just before play he says ” hang on hang on, hang on, hang on wait and I’ll have no idea what the hell’s going on. He walks over to the verandah and the next minute he’s like “Hey Jack come over here” and I’m thinking what the hell’s going on and in walked Jack Nicholson.
David: So Jack walks in.
Ben: What did he say?
David: Hello David. I said, wow, oh my God, one of my my favourite movies was, you know, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. So realistically the three of us are just sitting around.
Ben: They are all a little off the beam, aren’t they?
David: They would have to be. They are all eccentric you now.
Ben: Yeah totally.
David: But to talk to these two blokes, I mean they’ve been there, done that.
David: And just to have two blokes coming down to my level.
David: Was a great thing because we just sat, drank tea, drank water and lemon.
Ben: And what did you play for them? Do you remember what it was that you played?
David: Well I just played a very melodic monotone didgeridoo piece. And that puts people in the in the zone immediately.
Ben: Hey David we we could talk for hours so much to talk about actually. I mean with so many things to talk about, but I think that the great thing about what we’re doing today is we’re getting a snapshot of all these great things that people can come and see and do and of course all the information sits on Ingenias website. So, if you know you can check out where that’s all happening and hot springs will be opened soon so that’s fantastic. We have to end, not during the traditional land owner ending you got to end doing a Marlon Brando impersonation of course, haven’t you. So, Dave thanks for your time.
David: Oh, it’s been an absolute treat. Fill me anytime you want and you know take it to the islands and and I just experienced a bit of me playing the didgeridoo but unfortunately I can’t play a didgeridoo so I hold a didgeridont.
Ben: David Hudson talking to us today on Drive Your Own Adventure.
David: Fantastic, thanks buddy, safe travels.
Ben: And I tell you what, you are the first person to ever play the didgeridoo in this broadcast truck. I mean Alan Jones and the big celebrities have worked in here. You are the first persons ever played aboriginal music. So, it’s fantastic.
David: While I play the didge and people like Alan Jones are full of wind. So, there you go!
Ben: (Laughing) See ya mate.
David: Thank you, cheers.
Intro Guy: Thanks for listening to Drive Your Own Adventure with Ingenia Holidays. With Holiday Parks and resorts across New South Wales and Queensland Ingenia Holidays offer the ideal place for an extended break, weekend getaway, or short stop over. Find your dream destination with Ingenia Holidays at www.ingeniaholidays.com.au.
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