In short:

Stolen Generations survivor Hayden Davey rescued 10-year-old Lloyd Larking from drowning at the Port Lincoln jetty in 1963.

A commemorative bench is being unveiled this NAIDOC week in his honour.

What’s next?

Mr Larking says there should be more recognition of Indigenous culture around Port Lincoln.

The Port Lincoln foreshore is known for its monuments: some recognise maritime history, another is a nod to a colonial explorer.  

There’s even a life-size replica of the racehorse Makybe Diva, which never actually visited the town. 

Now, a piece of local First Nations history has joined the collection in the form of a bench commemorating an act of bravery more than 61 years ago.

Quick-thinking hero

It was a warm summer day in December 1963 when 14-year-old Hayden Davey rescued Lloyd Larking, 10, from drowning in deep water off the town jetty.

After hearing screams for help, Mr Davey jumped in and towed the young boy 14 metres to the beach where he was resuscitated by a local fisherman and rushed to hospital.

Hayden Davey (left), pictured with the Governor of South Australia, received a bronze medal for bravery in 1964 for his heroic actions.(Supplied: Hayden Davey)

The teenager had no formal lifesaving training but was a natural swimmer after many summer days swimming at the town’s jetty.

The Kokatha man said he and his relatives learnt to swim as kids with little in the way of instruction or lesson. 

“Us kids, we were practically kicked off the wharf to go swimming,” Mr Davey recalled.

“I guess it was instinct, and it happened, and I’m grateful. You get a chance, and it happened.”

It was a chance encounter that has bonded the two men together for life.

Recognition overdue

Mr Larking, who is also a First Nations man, has been campaigning for the past five years for his hero mate to be commemorated.

Now a wooden bench on the jetty will provide a spot for the old friends to sit together and share their story with generations to come.

Friends and family joined Lloyd Larking (centre) and Hayden Davey (second from right) as the commemorative bench was officially opened at the beginning of NAIDOC week 2024.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Emma Pedler)

“Now we’re getting older and it’s about time Hayden got some recognition,” Mr Larking said.

“Not only that, but the Aboriginal community and the younger generation know what really happened around Port Lincoln, there’s hardly any recognition of Aboriginal people on the foreshore.

“The next generation are going to come and walk along and say ‘Hey, that’s my grandfather.'”

It’s a place of reflection for Mr Davey, a member of the Stolen Generations.

Mr Davey’s family roots are in the desert region of South Australia’s far west coast — the traditional lands of the Kokatha people.

He was forcibly separated from his family and culture as an eight-year-old and put in an Adelaide children’s home.

In 2017 he shared his story with the independent assessor for the administration of individual reparations under South Australia’s Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme.

It was on a visit home to Port Lincoln when he came to the rescue of Mr Larking.

Mr Larking (right) campaigned to have the bench installed for five years.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Amelia Costigan)

Mr Davey was awarded a bronze medal of bravery by the Royal Humane Society of Australasia in 1964 for the heroic rescue that caught the attention of locals and the local MP.

“I caught the train in, walked into government house, shook hands, did the ceremony and all of it. Then after about two hours, I walked out and, on the train, back home. And that was it,” he said.

Celebrating Port Lincoln’s Indigenous history

Until now, this story was a footnote in Port Lincoln’s history books.

The Port Lincoln Times reported that Mr Davey had received a medal in 1964.(Port Lincoln Times, via Trove)

But with the installation of the bench this NAIDOC week, a new generation of jetty-goers will be reminded of the brave rescue.

The two mates agree the town lacks public recognition of Indigenous history, culture, and achievements.

Mr Larking, a Mirning man whose traditional lands include the Nullarbor, said he would like to see more recognition of the west coast of SA’s rich football culture, with many prominent AFL icons tracing their roots back to the community, including Eddie Betts, Peter and Shaun Burgoyne, and Graham Johncock.

The friends pose with the new bench on the Port Lincoln jetty.(Supplied: City of Port Lincoln)

He said the town still had a long way to go despite some recent efforts to improve recognition of Indigenous culture.

Port Lincoln Mayor Diana Mislov said she was pleased to see the bench project come to fruition.

“It has been a privilege for the council team to work with Lloyd and Hayden on the installation of this special commemorative seat that acknowledges Hayden’s act of bravery in saving Lloyd’s life back in 1963,” she said.

“Lloyd and Hayden’s enduring mateship is both inspiring and heartwarming.”

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