Roy David Page knew how to draw attention to himself.
He was the little Nunukul/Munaldjali boy with his dress tucked into his undies, showing off his boom boom to his sisters.
He was the made-up and frocked up drag star, pouting and performing for his Dad’s concreter mates, and their wives.
He was the heartbreakingly handsome male lead in stage plays, the gob-smackingly gorgeous female impersonator and drag persona.
The clown, the flirt, the fun person to have around, the mischief maker.
He was the witty Uncle and the flamboyant Aunt rolled into one and costumed to be a star.
Roy David Page was a shape-shifter — a charismatic, compelling and clever performer.
A slam dunk stunner.
He was Little Davey Page, the first and only Australian performer to ever be signed to the iconic American record label Atlantic, with hit singles ‘Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen’ and ‘We Like Music Together’.
He was the outrageous Regina in Richard Franklin’s Stone Bros (2009), a profoundly moving presence in The Sunshine Club (1999), Yibiyung (2008), The Man from Mukinupin (2009), Bloodland (2012), Mother Courage (2013), Black Diggers (2014), and Country Song (2015).
He played Kenny in Warwick Thornton’s short film Green Bush (2005) and appeared in Bran Nue Dae (2010), Oscar and Lucinda (1998), and the television series Black Comedy (2016).
His performance in the remarkable and heart-stirring story of his life, Page 8, co-written with Louis Nowra, toured nationally and internationally telling the story of this eighth child and second son of Roy and Doreen Page. He won a Green Room Award for his performance, and the work was brought back to the stage for Bangarra’s 25th anniversary.
Roy David Page was a master of misdirection, making us look one way while he quietly but persistently excelled in another.
His musical gifts were fostered studying saxophone, voice, composition, and song at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM), located within the Elder Conservatorium of Music at Adelaide University.
His classical training gave David the foundation for composing, but it was his individuality that made him genuinely unique.
A man who sang his own living culture into the present.
A composer who artfully combined a cross-genre mix of traditional Indigenous songlines with contemporary electronica and hip hop dance music.
Roy David Page was the musical heartbeat of Bangarra, composing scores for 27 of the company’s major works.
This is the paradox of David that was always there, hidden in plain sight.
The truth that he intentionally disrupted with his rascally glamour, the certainty that he was, in fact, a deeply connected countryman, a channel for spirit and culture and knowledge of the wisdom of country.
His gifts as a composer were the ones that took his lifetime to cement, and for which we at Bangarra revere him most — his status as a seminal singer/songwriter and innovative musical genius.
He contributed music to the Opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games and among his film score credits were Kanyini (2006), Hush (2007), Jacob (2009) and SPEAR (2015).
He was the recipient of two Helpmann Awards for Best Original Score (Mathinna 2008 and Belong 2011, the latter with composer Steve Francis), four Deadly Awards for sound, and an ARIA nomination.
But beyond all his successes, David’s greatest achievement was not to limit himself according to the labels and categories of the colonised Australia in which he grew up.
He was a proud gay man and a sincere family man, a composer who withdrew into himself and reached into his own heart for music, and a performer who left it all out on the stage with his cheeky, irreverent gift for storytelling.
He was profoundly sad and irrepressibly joyful, he was rigorously disciplined and spontaneously inspired, he fought, he laughed, he suffered the wounds of straddling many cultures and realities, he ate life in big, greedy glorious handfuls.
Roy David Page was never one thing but he was a leader among all his tribes—countryman, queer, Australian, artist.
Roy David Page was our brother and our songman. He commands our respect and love.
Roy David Page stands with the most extraordinary artists this nation has produced.
- Alana Valentine