Meet James Back, Reconciliation Advocate

Published on Tuesday, 10 January 2023 at 9:12:25 AM

Meet James Back, Reconciliation Advocate

Story and images by SERENA KIRBY

Many volunteers work behind-the-scenes and James Back is one of them as much of his volunteering takes place in boardrooms, behind closed doors.

Born in Fremantle, with 20-plus years experience working in the realms of Reconciliation, Indigenous rights and social justice, James volunteers a hefty amount of time to support organisations working to address the complex issues facing First Nations people.

“I’ve always volunteered, even at school. I was just brought up that way,” James says.

“But a real lightbulb moment came when travelling through Turkey as I saw the profound difference between the country’s east and west. This made me want to understand the truth about my own country.”

James, who started his Uni education in medicine, initially wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon.

“I realised pretty quickly that I preferred to work with people who were awake rather than cutting them up when they’re asleep. I shifted into biomedical science and did a post-grad in health promotion then a Diploma of Education and then my Masters.”

The research for his Masters degree took James to WA’s Western Desert communities where there was a prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes. James, who also has Diabetes (Type 1), was well aware of the seriousness of this chronic disease.

Planning to only spend a few months in the desert, James ended up staying 10 years and the trajectory of his life was changed forever. In response to this experience he established Reconciliation WA and was inaugural CEO for seven years. He then moved to Denmark for love after being introduced to the woman who’d later become his wife by a matchmaking local.

James travels constantly and his volunteering is not restricted to the boundaries of the Denmark Shire. He’s on the board of several aboriginal corporations across WA and closer to home he’s a volunteer board member at Denmark's Kwoorabup Nature School.

“Creating future generations who feel a deep sense of custodianship is important to me. Aboriginal elders often talk about being ‘the carers of everything’ and we all have a responsibility to care for each other and the land we share.”

James is always keen to volunteer his time for sharing his knowledge and expertise and recently advised the local Shire on the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart which the Council recently endorsed.

“I've always been a believer in supporting people less fortunate or less privileged than I am so volunteering is a natural fit for someone with that kind of perspective. Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes so just find what you’re passionate about and get involved.”

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