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At a glance

Having migrated from Zimbabwe with his family as a teenager, David went on to captain the Wallabies and Vice-Captain the Brumbies as part of a stellar rugby career in which he has been awarded for leadership on and off the field. 

With a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, David also has a track record as a powerful advocate on issues ranging from climate to marriage equality. 

He has been involved in multiple small businesses and has co-founded numerous not-for-profit community initiatives in Australia and overseas, including with his wife Emma.

In 2021, David attended the COP26 climate summit and led The Cool Down campaign that saw over 470 Australian athletes from 40+ sports call on the Australian Government to lift its ambition on climate change. Upon returning home, he announced his run as the community-endorsed Independent Senate candidate for the ACT. After campaigning on a platform of integrity, doing politics differently and making Canberra count, David was successfully elected at the 21 May 2022 Federal Election.

David in detail

David grew up on a farm outside of Gweru, Zimbabwe and began playing rugby at school at the age of 8. In 2001, at 14, David and his family relocated to Brisbane after their farm was taken in Zimbabwe government’s land reform. David made his mark on schoolboy rugby in 2005 touring with the Australian Schoolboys team to the UK. Upon his return, he joined Western Force in Perth. In 2008 David captained the Australian U20s at the Junior World Championships, also making his Wallabies debut. This same year, David co-founded EightyTwenty Vision, a charitable foundation in partnership with a rural Zimbabwean community development organisation with a focus on improving maternal health, food and water security for the underprivileged community of Nkayi in Zimbabwe. 

A string of acknowledgements and accolades have been awarded to David over the years both for his contribution to rugby and in recognition of his advocacy work. In 2010 he was awarded the esteemed John Eales Medal - which he also took home in 2018. 2010 was also the first year he was nominated for World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year - nominated again in both 2011 and 2015. In 2015, David was acknowledged with the Brett Robinson Brumbies Player of the Year, Best Forward and Fans Choice awards. Still in 2015, he was also nominated World Rugby Player of the Year and won the peer-voted Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) Medal of Excellence and RUPA Fans Choice Award. David represented the Wallabies at Rugby World Cup for the first time in 2011 and captained Australia during the 2012 International season. 

2012 was also the year he was named the WA recipient of the ‘Young Australian of the Year' award. His strong value system, integrity and sense of purpose were publicly recognised as his services to both rugby and the establishment of his organisation EightyTwenty Vision were highlighted. Away from his rugby career, David has been passionately involved in various campaigns for action on climate change. In 2014 he joined the Leard Blockade, where he infamously chained himself in protest to a super digger in Maules Creek Coal Mine (in Leard State Forest), with 5th generation farmer, Rick Laird. He was arrested and charged, facing Gunnedah Local Court in February 2015. The charge was proved but no conviction was recorded.

In 2017 David took a yearlong sabbatical away from Australian rugby. This was the year EightyTwenty Vision handed over their partnership to TEAR Australia who had the capacity to scale up the project. He played two seasons with the Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japanese Top League. Between these two seasons David and Emma spent seven months living and working on a farm in rural Zimbabwe, exploring the potential for a project that could sit at the intersection of agriculture, conservation and community development. At the end of this time David went to Harvard Business School to undertake their Authentic Leader Development Course. Inspired by this year, David and Emma created the book ‘In Our Nature’ containing their own and others photos (including award winning photographers such as David Yarrow and Adrian Steirn), essays, poems and a sense of hope for these uncertain times we're living in. 

Following a final two seasons in 2018 and 2019 with the Brumbies and Wallabies and a final tenure with the Panasonic Wild Knights from December 2019, David announced his retirement from professional rugby in May 2020 amidst the premature season end due to the covid pandemic. 

In 2020 David and his wife Emma co-founded FrontRunners - an organisation that draws on David’s legacy of pairing sport with advocacy. FrontRunners works alongside athletes and sporting organisations for the future of sport by developing solutions to tackle the climate and environmental challenges we all face. In 2021, as part of his work with FrontRunners, David spearheaded The Cool Down - a campaign that saw over 470 Australian athletes from 40+ sports call on Australia to lift its climate ambition. 

Also during 2020 David and his youngest brother, Steve, co-founded Rangelands Restoration Trust - a regenerative agriculture project working to build nature-based climate solutions, adaptation and resilience in rural southern Zimbabwe. The Rangelands Restoration Trust works to restore ecosystems and partner with people who depend on them to improve their livelihoods. During the pandemic, David spent much of 2021 on the ground in Zimbabwe helping implement the early stages of Rangelands work toward an ambitious model that could be implemented at scale across sub-Saharan Africa. The model would secure space for wildlife, improve degraded landscapes and ensure the benefits flow to the communities living within and alongside these remaining wild places. 

David has utilised his position to call out inequalities, raise awareness and propagate change on unfair and unjust social and cultural issues. He has been a vanguard in challenging and diminishing homophobia in sport. In 2010 David and his partner, Emma, took a personal stance on marriage equality, waiting to marry until same sex marriage was legalised in Australia (finally marrying in 2018, after marriage equality was legalised in 2017). In addition to his rugby career, activism and advocacy work, David has completed a Masters of Sustainable Agriculture. He is interested in the intersection of agriculture, conservation and communities.

David announced his intention to run for the Senate in December 2021 as a voice for those who are sick of ‘politics as usual’. After campaigning with the support of over 2,200 Canberran volunteers, David became the first ever Independent ACT Senator at the 2022 Federal Election. His ambition is to put politics back into the hands of the people, to represent Australians who care about climate and integrity, and to advocate for the community he loves by working on the issues that Canberrans care about most. David supports territory rights, a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament, and equality for all who call Australia home. His vision is of a future where our planet and economy thrive – where good jobs abound, businesses are supported to seize the huge opportunities in front of them, and where Australia leads the charge on climate action instead of trailing behind other countries and thereby jeopardising our future security and prosperity.

Want to know more?

You can watch the ABC's Australian Story True Grit on David's life and achievements Part 1 and Part 2