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Gordon Cole

My name is Gordon Cole and I am an entrepreneur in the business and community space. I am a Noongar man, I grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, I worked in federal and state government trading entities and agencies, from Australia Post, Aboriginal Affairs, Child Protection, Community Development and Justice along with being in social enterprise for 20 years.

I have been in leadership roles for over 25 years where I have successfully led and played a key role in the establishment of a number of community not for profit organisations including the Wirrpanda Foundation, Noongar Mia Mia Pty Ltd (housing organisation), Noongar Wellbeing and Sports and The Noongar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As a traditional owner negotiator I played an active role in the Noongar Native Title Negotiations of the South West Settlement, the first of its kind in Australia. The last ten years I have successfully built a number of businesses and have won numerous awards.

My advice: Pace yourself, don’t go too fast and try to get everything at once, trust me it’ll come, you’ll get there!… Listen and observe more than you speak. Get to know and understand your culture, your heritage and where you come from, this is your foundation for everything.

I work in a number of areas across a broad spectrum of sectors and industries but primarily I work towards improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. I do the work that I do because it’s very much needed to improve life outcomes for our people. One of the things that I enjoy most about my work is seeing people and communities thrive to be the best they can be to maximise their untapped potential.

My old people, my four children and the impact that colonisation has had on our community have inspired me to do the work that I do. To be successful I have had to be better educated, change my thinking and become healthier (both spiritually and physically).

To me, good leadership is about having a vision, a plan to execute it and having good people around you.

The major aspect of good leadership is being consistent. My strengths as a leader include: consistency, honesty, passion, being a good listener, having a work ethic, showing emotion, being empathetic and understanding. I always do what I say I will.

An example of my leadership is when I was the Inaugural Chairperson of our housing company and after three years I stood aside to allow a younger person to become the chairperson, I stayed on as a director and over a 13-year period I along with others mentored, guided and supported the younger person on his journey as chairperson along with his personal and professional life. He has gone onto bigger and better things across all facets of his life and was able to be nurtured by myself and others to reach his potential. Social and community housing is a very emotive and political area to work in, he conducted himself professionally with honesty and integrity.

Throughout his 13 years as our chairperson I was able to provide solid support and guidance along with expertise that was transferable to him, allowing him to learn and grow at a steady pace where he was able to understand and learn the discipline of policies, procedures and guidelines to great effect. 18 months ago I took over the chairperson role after he resigned to pursue other things, this was very rewarding as now he is mentoring and supporting young people as they commence their life journey.

If I could go back and give some advice to my high school aged self, I would say: Work and study hard…I didn’t do this! I learnt a bit later that there is no substitute for hard work, my parents advised me of this but I didn’t listen! Don’t waste your time thinking you know the shortcuts because there are none! It will save you and everyone around you time if you focus on your studies and training… Set personal and professional goals. Learn to save and value money early in your life…work to become financially secure, it provides you with more options. Most importantly, be consistent, be honest, act professionally with integrity, present well and be respectful.