Damien Carriage and his partner Annabelle with their baby and dog on a beach

Damien Carriage – Hard Working, Resilient, Family-Oriented

Damien is a proud Gumbaynggirr man and a diesel mechanic and excavator who works away in the mines for two weeks at a time. When he’s home, he loves his time with his partner Annabelle and baby son, his nan, friends and football team.

He has a positive outlook on life and his future, and seeing his mates and others succeed makes him happy. But it wasn’t always like this for him.

At only 26 years old, he has already lost both his parents.

Damien went through dark times, but when he finally did ask for help, the support and encouragement he received were life-changing for him, and now he mentors others.

Damien’s parents split up when he was young, and his mother worked two jobs to support her three sons.

He found school tough, mixed with the wrong crowd, and lost his licence after being caught drink driving.

His father struggled with alcohol, and when Damien was only 21, his father passed away.

Damien’s mum took him aside and made him realise he was heading down the same path. That hit home.

“I said I need to turn this boat around and I need to do something myself… It just made me think about life a lot more and where I wanted to be when I was older, to find that end goal.”

When his mum passed away not long after, Damien chose action as his way of dealing with the pain.

“If I sat around sulking, I would’ve sat around sulking for the rest of my life. I had to get on with it. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Damien always had the love of family, particularly his Nan, who he admires.

“She’s an 87-year-old Indigenous woman. She’s outlived all her kids. She’s our elder in the family. She’s the strongest in our family, just sitting down having a chat, she tells us a lot about our culture.

“Culture’s everything. Been around culture my whole life. Living on the Coffs Harbour mission, I was taught how to fish, I was taught how to hunt [and] language, I’m still learning the language.”

For young people, Damien says, “No matter what cards you get dealt, it’s how you play your hand.

“I didn’t get help, I thought I didn’t need to get help. I just thought, ‘I’m a man I can do this, I can do it on my own’. Realising how many community groups, how many mentoring groups are out there has helped me get through it… When I reached out and got help, it completely changed my life.

“I’m excited for my future. I’ll watch my son grow up [and] hopefully have more kids, play good footy, hopefully win a [home] grand final.

“I don’t think I’d ever move away from Nambucca Valley. This is home for me. I’ll obviously venture out and go to new places, but I’ll always find a home back at Nambucca.

You can now watch Damien’s story, other stories from local heroes and the full feature documentary film, Inspire U: Stories from the Valley, on our Inspire U project page. We’ll be adding new stories regularly, so come back soon.

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Author: Simone Atallah

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