Swan City Youth Service's Graham Cox says working in youth services is his vocation. Picture: Andrew Wiliams

Elder of the year Graham Cox

Elder of the year honoured for 28 years of service helping at-risk young people dealing with homelessness, alcohol, drugs and domestic abuse.
October 19, 2023
Andrew Williams

A YOUTH service worker was awarded the male Elder of the year award at this month’s Midland NAIDOC event.

Swan City Youth Service (SCYS) senior counsellor Graham Cox received the award on Tuesday, October 3, for his 28 years of service helping at-risk young people dealing with homelessness, alcohol, drugs, and domestic abuse.

Mr Cox said he was nominated by a friend, and though he won back in 2018, receiving this year’s award meant a lot to him, especially as he approaches retirement age.

“To go out with an accolade from my friends out in the community who recognise the work that I do, I just think that’s unbelievable. Knowing that you get that recognition out there amongst the people, you can’t beat that,” he said.

However, Mr Cox emphasised the work he does wouldn’t be possible without his colleagues at the Swan City Youth Service.

“A lot of the credit that I get comes due to my workmates… these guys here are remarkable people, their hearts are in the right place.”

Mr Cox said he doesn’t make a distinction between Indigenous youth and non-Indigenous youth who need the help of SCYS and thinks for progress to be made everyone needs to come together.

“We can’t keep crying the blame game, and we pass the buck on to everyone else except us. We need to be looking after our children ourselves. Giving these young people role models, real role models, putting our arm around them, working together, and showing these young people there is more to life than prison.

“We all live here, so we need to make it come together, not for our sakes but for our kids’ sake, we can’t keep pushing the blame on to other people. Parents need to stand up and take responsibilities for their children. We’ve got little fellas running the streets at eight and nine years of age, that’s not right, and if I don’t say anything, I’m not doing my job.”

Elders hold an important role in every community and especially in Indigenous communities, but Mr Cox believes it’s just as important to respect young people.

“I learn from these young people, they’re my teachers, I learn about the streets, I learn about what’s happening. You couldn’t do this job without interacting with the young people, without sitting there yarning with them, as their input is so vital.

“I don’t want to be the most knowledgeable man in the cemetery, I want to leave that behind for our kids to be pulling these books (shared knowledge) out of the library and reading them. Every time we lose an Aboriginal Elder, we lose a book from the library.”

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