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Q&A with Anglicare First Nations Engagement and Development Advisor, keen surfer and beach angler, and father, Yaegl, Gumbaynngirr and Bundjalung man, Howie Vandyke

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Howie Vandyke and find out about his work goals, faith and spirituality, totems, secret skill, thoughts on National Reconciliation Week and the Uluru Statement, and what film makes him nostalgic

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How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?

I have working for Anglicare Southern Queensland for just over a year in the role of First Nations Engagement and Development Advisor. I also represent Anglicare on the Anglican Church Southern Queensland (ACSQ) Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Working Group, along with Anna Zilli, Anglicare’s Chief People Officer.

What activities are you currently engaged in?

I am currently planning National Reconciliation Week activities, including morning tea events. I am also visiting Anglican churches during Sunday services to speak to people about constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a Voice to Parliament.

What are your plans and goals for the next 12 months?

I am working on increasing employment opportunities for First Nations peoples, in line with ACSQ RAP actions. Working in conjunction with other Anglicare Organisational Development team members, I am also updating our cultural capability framework.

What do you like best about your job?

Being able to interact with my people in the community and connect them with the services Anglicare Southern Queensland provides. My job gives me purpose.

How does your faith inspire you and shape your outlook, life choices and character?

My Christian faith provides me with the principles to guide my decision making, including how I provide services to my people in my work and in other community roles. My Aboriginality spirituality grounds me, bringing me back to the Creator, and humbles me. My spirituality fills me with gratitude.

Annual St John's Cathedral / Anglicare Harmony Day event in 2023

Khai Balabbo, Aunty Dr Rose Elu, Anglicare CEO Sue Cooke, Howie Vandyke, Hepisipa Pahulu, Isabella Dredge and Lilibeth Horkings–McMinn enjoying the annual St John’s Cathedral / Anglicare Harmony Day event in 2023

Can you tell us a little about your personal faith journey?

I grew up in a family that went to church. I blend my Christian faith and Aboriginal spirituality in a seamless way, which provides for my spiritual needs.

What is your favourite Bible scripture and why?

Psalm 23 is my favourite scripture because I find it incredibly hopeful.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

The person who inspires me the most is Bishop Cam Venables because of his lovely Welsh tunes and because he is a funny guy.

Can you tell us a little about your Mob?

I am a Yaegl, Gumbaynngirr and Bundjalung man. My Bunjalung totems are the echidna and mountain spring. I am a keeper of mountain springs, which means I care for them and know how to find them. My Yaegl totem is the wuy-wuy (dolphin). An Elder has given me the ceremonial name, wuy-wuy, because I can catch fish when nobody else is getting a bite. My Gumbaynngirr totem is the wuurungga (koala). When you have a totem, you are responsible for taking care of it.

Why is the Uluru Statement From the Heart, including the Voice to Parliament, so important?

This is a time for our nation to shine, coming together as one, to respect the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been walking and caring for these lands for thousands of years – long before colonisation. I think we should be recognised in our nation’s birth certificate – the Constitution.

Why is it important to celebrate National Reconciliation Week?

It’s extremely important to have this time to reflect annually on our level of maturity as a nation in terms of the relationship between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians. It’s a time to celebrate our shared successes in this relationship.

What does this year’s National Reconciliation Week theme, “Be a Voice for Generations”, mean to you?

This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme ties in directly with constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a Voice to Parliament. It’s about honouring the legacy of our ancestors and paving the way for our children and grandchildren, and so on, to continue this legacy. It’s also about celebrating the world’s longest continuously living culture through dance, song, story-telling and language.

Howie Vandyke with South Sudanese community members Rachel Jimma and Deborah John

Howie Vandyke with South Sudanese community members Rachel Jimma and Deborah John after a St Paul’s, Ipswich service in March 2023

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

“Never hate”. My modern history school teacher, Ian Jacobs, who recently passed away, told us this.

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

Fishing and walking on the beach. I am picking up my adult son from the airport tomorrow night and we are going fishing on Sunday at Brunswick Heads.

If you found yourself on a deserted island, what three things would you choose to have with you?

A Swiss army knife, definitely fishing gear and a magnifying glass.

If you could have a billboard with any text on it, what would it say and why?

“Remember to love yourself” because everyone needs love.

Howie Vandyke speaking at the Anglicare Leaders Forum

Howie Vandyke speaking at the Anglicare Leaders Forum at the Anglican Parish of Hendra/Clayfield’s Clayfield Centre in March 2023

What book have you given away most as a gift and why?

I have given away many copies of Bundjalung Jugun by Jennifer Hoff because it shares the histories and stories of my people.

Where do you do your best thinking?

At the beach while fishing, walking, sitting or surfing.

What’s your best childhood memory?

Fishing at Sugarloaf Bay in Middle Harbour, Sydney with my grandfather.

What is your karaoke go-to song?

Mack the Knife’ by Louis Armstrong.

If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Go to the beach or listen to the Eagles.

What makes you nostalgic and why?

Watching dramatic movies, such as The Notebook.

What is your secret skill?

Fish whispering.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would that be?

Flathead fish.

What item should you throw out, but can’t bear to part with?

A pair of old jeans.

What’s your unanswerable question – the question you are always asking yourself?

What is the meaning of life?

Editor’s note: This year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) theme is “Be a Voice for Generations”. NRW is held between 27 May and 3 June annually. Visit the National Reconciliation Week website for resources, more information and to register your events.

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