NAIDOC Week: Gordon Cole
Held nationally each year NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week is a time for everyone to celebrate and show respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders cultures.
This year’s NAIDOC theme is: Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let's work together for a shared future.
Shelter WA caught up with Gordon Cole to have a chat about both NAIDOC Week and the work of Noongar Mia Mia, a not-for-profit established to help Indigenous Australians by providing a range of quality-affordable housing options. Gordon is a Noongar man from Perth and the South West of WA. He is the inaugural Chairperson of Noongar Mia Mia and after leaving in 2003 Gordon has since been reappointed as Chairperson in 2016. He is a former Member of NAIDOC Perth and this year he joined the National NAIDOC Committee.
Trying to find free time in Gordon Cole’s schedule in the run-up to NAIDOC week is a challenging experience.
On top of his ongoing commitments to a multitude of Indigenous services he has also been travelling the length of our country to help steer several NAIDOC events in his new role as a National NAIDOC Committee Member. There is also a workwear supply business to run but one gets the feeling this is done in his spare time.
“NAIDOC Perth has been run very well under their Chairperson Glenda Kickett,” said Gordon, as we sat down for coffee. “It’s one of the leading NAIDOC committees in the country, so I had this experience locally and now I’m working on the big marquee event, the National Awards Ceremony.”
Televised by National Indigenous Television the National Awards Ceremony honours Indigenous members from around the country that have excelled at improving the lives of Indigenous people in their communities.
“There is a Lifetime Achievement Award which honours one of our people nationally that have contributed their life to the betterment of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders,” notes Gordon.
While now focussed on things nationally Gordon is still across events locally. One of the bigger events is the NAIDOC Family Day at Ashfield Reserve.
“They get five to ten thousand people attending,” said Gordon. “A day of celebrating our culture and sharing it with the wider community. Everybody comes and there are stores, jobs expo, music, entertainment, health checks and a wonderful festive atmosphere comes from it.”
The NAIDOC Perth Opening Ceremony has been the mainstay event from the very beginning. It is held in the Supreme Court Gardens.
“It has a Welcome to Country from our Elders,” explains Gordon. “There is dancing, both from male and female dancers along with live bands and singers. The Miss NAIDOC entrants are there and we have an Elder’s marquee area where they can come and be looked after.”
The inclusive nature of the event attracts not only locals but curious tourists exploring the City.
“That’s the thing about our culture and people,” explains Gordon.
“When people come to our traditional lands and we got celebration, our responsibility is to look after them, because they are on our country. We embrace that and we open up to everyone, and everybody comes along and it’s a great celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.”
The work of Noongar Mia Mia has been recognised through the NAIDOC State Awards. In 2010 the not-for-profit was the winner of the NAIDOC Perth Business of the Year Award. In 2013 it was a finalist in the same category.
“Noongar Mia Mia has been around for 19 years,” Gordon said. “It’s a regional Aboriginal housing organisation which assists our community with social and affordable community housing. We have about four to five hundred people every evening safe under a Noongar Mia Mia house. We have a small employer base, but they do work over and above the normal and our NAIDOC awards are for good governance and service delivery.
“Looking to the future not only do we continue to house families, but we are looking to acquire more property. We want to also cater for individual tenancies so it might be a person in a one or two-bedroom apartment in the City.”
Shelter WA and Noongar Mia Mia both recognise the importance of Aboriginal housing in the Perth metropolitan area. Late last year an inaugural Metropolitan Aboriginal Housing Forum was held. The one-day community forum provided an opportunity to actively engage Aboriginal leaders in workshop discussions regarding the supply of culturally appropriate, safe, affordable and accessible housing for Aboriginal people. Several endorsed recommendations are being delivered including future partnerships with Noongar Mia Mia to look at;
• Developing new models for affordable home ownership schemes – i.e. rent to buy option with long term rental payments to become shared equity in ownership.
• The development of a Noongar Community Housing Strategy to build on the value proposition of Noongar managed housing, to address the lack of safe, secure and culturally appropriate housing supply and to capitalise on new opportunities.
Gordon and his siblings were raised by his parents in a state housing commission home.
“I’ve seen my parents work hard to make sure that myself and my four sisters were housed, secure and safe and they had responsibilities as tenants,” explains Gordon. “I look no further than my own parents in terms of role modelling of what I need to do to keep a home and how do you help others to do that as well.
“My grandparents and older people were not always fortunate enough to have a house.”
These life experiences have given Gordon his passion when it comes to housing people.
“It’s one of the necessities of life. If you have the security and safety of your own home, then you can start to build your life and all the things you need to do to sustain yourself and your family.
“With children, they can get their health, social, educational needs all met and can grow in housing. If they don’t have a home well then it is very hard to thrive and prosper so it is a necessity and we are all responsible for it.
NAIDOC Week runs from 7 – 14 July
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