Megan Davis, 47, and Pat Anderson, 78, are leading campaigners for the First Nations Voice to parliament. In addition to sharing history-defining goals, they’re also the best of friends with a penchant for mushy movies.
Megan Davis, left, and Pat Anderson. “Megan’s confident about who she is, which is an anchor that allows her to do all the stuff she does. I’m so proud of her.”Credit:Wolter Peeters
Megan: I’ve been star-struck by Pat ever since 2007 when she handed down a report on the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse. Even now, we’ve become close friends and know each other’s family members, I’ve never lost that feeling of awe.
We met properly eight years ago in a Referendum Council meeting [about constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians], which she was co-chairing. As the youngest person there, I was so nervous, but we got along immediately; there are no bells and whistles with either one of us.
I learnt a lot from her that day, particularly about how to conduct a meeting. She encourages people to speak up, really say what they’re thinking, but she keeps them to time. She runs a tight ship.
The next year, we worked closely together on the Regional Dialogues [with Indigenous people across Australia]. These were often difficult, emotional meetings because our community feels so vulnerable and yet Pat fielded questions so skilfully, always charming, personable and pivoting the conversation to find a solution.
One reason we’ve bonded, I think, is because we’re both kids of the underclass. We understand poverty intimately because we grew up in it. That drives us both in our work on the Voice. It’s for people in communities who don’t have a voice and we both feel deeply connected to them because that’s where we came from.
We balance each other. She’s fabulous talking off the cuff but, as a lawyer, I like a script. She says what she thinks, whereas I’ll argue for restraint. She’ll say it anyway, though –stuff like, “You’ve got to read! You’ve got to do the work!” Where I’m a grumpy introvert, she has great vitality and always brings a lot of energy into a room. She’s always punctual; I’m always late. She hates that!
She’s always got my back, though. At one of the Dialogues, after I spoke about options for constitutional recognition, an elderly woman stood up and said, “We’re not being well serviced here. We need someone who really understands international law, like Amal Clooney.” Pat said, “We don’t need her: we’ve got Megan.”
She’s one of the most principled people I know, always thinking about the consequences of any decision. She’s also so kind-hearted that she makes me want to be a better person. The Regional Dialogues process involved a million acts of kindness: one day, a woman forgot to bring her medication, so Pat drove her to a medical centre to fill her prescription. And she’s always picking up people from the airport.
“We balance each other … Where I’m a grumpy introvert, she has great vitality.”
We rarely quarrel. If we do, it’s about inane things, like where to have lunch. She gives in on the little things, but never on the big ones – such as what mob will or won’t like. She’s always right about things like that.
We wind down by watching Netflix or Hallmark movies. We watch Christmas movies all year round – ones with silly names like Mingle All the Way. I love Pat like a sister. Our friendship is fulfilling, authentic and enduring – which sounds kind of Hallmark, too.
Pat: Megan and I have been working closely together since 2015. At the Referendum Council, it was immediately clear that she was an ally – and super smart. I was always keen to know what she thought about an issue and she always gave an intelligent, useful response.
Actually, she’s very good at answering questions and presenting complex legal information about the Constitution and Indigenous rights to First Nations people of all ages and backgrounds in a way they understand. Not coming from a legal background, I’ve been on a steep learning curve, too – especially about the Constitution. Megan’s my teacher – and so patient.
Our professional relationship soon developed into a personal one. Although we both come from poor backgrounds, she’s had opportunities I never did because she’s from a younger generation. I grew up on a camp in Darwin where the only job available to me was as a cleaner. I wanted to go to university, but that was impossible. Megan went to university from school. Times have changed.
“Megan’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She can write an opinion piece in the back of a taxi on her way to a meeting.”
We both believe strongly in a better future and we’re both constantly looking to see how we can get there. I think we’re both quite vain about what we know. I don’t worry about my appearance, but I do worry about what’s going on in my head; there’s a vanity in that. Megan’s into appearances too though, which is a generation thing. I love these young women getting around with their lovely red lips.
I’ll tell you what drives me to distraction, though: she’s the worst timekeeper in the world. Five minutes before we’re due to give a webinar to 400 people, I’m thinking “Where’s Megan?” I’m not just annoyed at her being late, I’m worried I’ll have to do it by myself! She has never not turned up, though. She arrives relaxed and confident and always well prepared.
Megan’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She can write an opinion piece in the back of a taxi on her way to a meeting. She has a healthy attitude to what she knows – she doesn’t shove it down your throat – though she might take those male lawyers down a peg or two.
I love her optimism, her ability to imagine what could and should happen, but she’s no Pollyanna. I also love her kindness and gentleness: she spends a lot of time in Brisbane helping her siblings care for their ageing mum.
She’s very grounded – in her family and in being a proud Cobble Cobble woman. She’s confident about who she is, which is an anchor that allows her to do all the stuff she does. I’m so proud of her, this young Aboriginal woman who’s been so f—ing successful.
Megan’s part of my life and always will be; we’re almost family. We talk about what we’ll do when we get a Yes vote [on the Voice referendum]. Maybe a big holiday in Greece or Turkey – or maybe we’ll just go to bed.
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