Introducing Mr NAIDOC Perth 2022, Noongar Yamatji man Cohen Taylor, a force to be reckoned with


Cohen Taylor is used to wearing multiple hats, but he’s recently acquired a crown after being named the first-ever Mr NAIDOC Perth on Saturday.

While the relevance of beauty pageants is being questioned now more than ever before, the Miss and Mr NAIDOC competition has set itself apart from the rest — especially the stereotypical speech about “world peace” — although understanding and reconciliation is something the 23-year-old so desperately wants for his community.

The Noongar Yamatji man, whose “mob were taken” from their families during the Stolen Generation years, has seen his people live in “fear” of law enforcement.

“I learnt more about it and what the police have done to our mob and it became an obsession to be honest,” Taylor told AAA.

In 2019, Taylor, who lives in Morawa in the Wheatbelt, joined the Western Australia Police Academy as a cadet, with a mission to rebuild his people’s relationships with the police, based on his experience of “respect”.

“I was quite privileged to live next door to a police officer who was a remarkable man,” he said.

“I want to be that person that can change the way that our mob can look at the uniform.”

Camera Icon‘I want to be that person that can change the way that our mob can look at the uniform’ Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

But Taylor admits that being an Aboriginal police officer has come with its challenges — particularly his own people turning their backs on him.

“(There’s a) stigma within my community that once you join the police force, you’re no longer a black person or you lose your Aboriginality,” he said.

He admits that having to grapple with these two worlds has been a source of constant “stress and anxiety”.

“It’s like two massive waves crashing at each other and they need someone or something to redirect them,” he said.

“It is difficult and I feel constant stress and anxiety from it.

“It would be easier if everyone got along.”

But in the three years since he joined the police — he’s now a police constable — he has already seen the positive impact his actions have made.

“It goes from yelling at me to shaking my hand,” he said.

“I’ve had people come up to me in the street saying to me like, ‘are you Noongar?, ‘yeah I’m a Noongar man’, ‘oh my god it’s so good to see our mob in the uniform, seeing someone like you I just feel comfortable’.”

Taylor’s friend nudged him to apply for Mr NAIDOC — a six-week leadership and empowerment program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Being the first one I knew it was a great opportunity to apply my message and share my story because there’s so many kids out there, so many people out there who feel like they’re alone,” he said.

The Miss NAIDOC Perth completion was established in 2011, and this year’s awards marks the first year for the Mr NAIDOC program.

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“I had my bosses from work had the Superintendent Inspector call me up . . . to congratulate me,” he said.

“Everyone in that room, their whole opinion changed on the police force. Because everyone came up, they were embracing me, welcoming me, telling me how proud they are of what I’m doing and just to keep doing what I’m doing.”



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