Mixed emotions for CQU arts educator as Australia Day award honours inspiring career

27 January 2022

CQUniversity Adjunct Associate Professor Sue Davis has been named in the 2022 Australia Day honours' recognised for her passion and leadership in arts education.

The Noosa-based creative spent more than 15 years at CQUniversity as Senior Lecturer and Deputy Dean Research for the School of Education and the Arts' as well as founding and managing the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Network.

Currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships and a Board Member with Drama Australia' Dr Davis also runs Sunshine Coast arts business Wild/flower Women.

Dr Davis said the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recognition was gratifying recognition for the importance of the arts' but she received it with conflicting feelings.

"What brings me the greatest joy is promoting opportunities for others to connect with their communities' their sense of self and the environment through creative and educational experiences'" Dr Davis said.

"But I do want to say that receiving this recognition on a day that is highly contentious for Australia's First Nations people comes with mixed emotions.

"I am deeply grateful for their custodianship of Country and generous sharing of knowledge and understanding. We have been the beneficiaries of removals and displacements of these precious lands and need to honour their sovereignty and listen to their voices.

"Through this recognition though I would like to pay my respects to Traditional Custodians and to draw attention to the ways that all of us who live on and walk this land can be worthy custodians in return."

Dr Davis' work and volunteering has touched the lives of thousands of Queenslanders' empowering them to share their own stories through arts.

She's also had a big impact on another big career' as a drama teacher at Kenmore State High School' teaching well-known Australian comedian Josh Thomas.

As Josh went on to a global career as comedian and actor' Sue's impact was so memorable' Josh invited her to take a role on his ABC series Please Like Me in 2014.

As a leader' she's also been prepared to speak out about her experience' and to call out problems within the sector.

In 2014' she delivered keynote addresses at the Drama Queensland conference and the Queensland Studies Authority conference' decrying the NAPLAN approach to standardising classrooms' and calling for nurturing and diverse education that celebrated the arts.

In 2017' Drama Queensland welcomed "exceptional" Dr Davis as a Life Member' thanking her for "inspiring so many with her passion' knowledge' generosity and outstanding contribution to the field of Arts Education' Drama Queensland and Drama Australia".

In 2019' she was recognised as a Life Member of the Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance' the peak arts industry group for the Sunshine Coast and Noosa' of which she was a founding member in 2007.

"For me personally' the arts' education and making connections to place and community have been the touchstones for a meaningful life'" Dr Davis said.

"Being involved in different arts' education and environmental organisations over the past 35 years and helping create some of them has been so rewarding. Through giving and serving' you gain so much for yourself as well."

As a teacher' Dr Davis has modelled life-long learning' achieving tertiary qualifications at all levels' and taking on professional development across Australia and internationally.

Dr Davis is a passionate advocate for the transformative power of the arts and story-telling' and recently collaborated with Indigenous artists in Cairns' Jute Theatre' for the Dare to Dream theatre production.

Telling the story of local woman and CQUni academic Henrietta Marrie AM' the program included schools workshops to promote Indigenised storytelling' and to empower Indigenous young people.

Dr Davis is a regular presenter and national and international conferences and has published more than 60 peer reviewed articles and book chapters.

She said she's particularly proud of the 2013 Queensland art project Water Reckoning Rolling Role' connecting participants across five countries' and culminating in a presentation at the Heathcote Revisited Conference in London.

Outside of the arts and education' Dr Davis has also generously donated her time for community projects across the Sunshine Coast' including as Chair of the UNESCO-designated Noosa Biosphere Reserve (2011-14)' reflecting her strong interest in promoting the principles of conservation' sustainability and learning as part of this UNESCO program.