Cohen Taylor has made history for being crowned Perth’s first Mr NAIDOC, a special moment for the young Noongar-Yamatji man.
Born in Osborne Park, Taylor’s family frequently moved around until they settled in the small town of Walpole, 400km south of Perth, where he was raised for 13 years.
As an adolescent Taylor was ambivalent about his childhood, learning early on people treated him differently because of the colour of his skin.
It was a concept he said was difficult to grasp as a child who just wanted to have fun and play with his friends.
Going through high school was no walk in the park either; Taylor found it hard to focus on school work and often found himself removed from class for being disruptive.
Because of this he isolated himself through school which – with pressure of not knowing what he wanted to do after school – made complicated his emotions.
At 23 years old Taylor was diagnosed with ADHD, which helped answer a lot of his questions on why he had trouble focusing.
After leaving school, Taylor started to wonder what his purpose in life was.
He found that answer through applying for the police academy.
However, being an Aboriginal police officer has its challenges; Taylor said he has had his own people turn their backs on him because of the uniform he chose to represent.
The relationship between the police and Aboriginal people has been complicated for decades, with many Indigenonus people having bad experiences with law enforcement.
But Taylor wants to change that.
“I would love to see the relationship between munarch (police) and our mob,” Taylor said.
“To bridge that gap, me, myself, I’m a munarch and I like to educated officers and people from within and tell them what our culture means to us.
“There aren’t many Aboriginal people in these roles, and I asked myself, ‘who could relate to how I feel in these situations as a police officer’.”
Because of this Taylor finds himself putting on a happy face and constantly telling himself he is okay.
But this mindset can affect you mentally and physically, and he strongly encourages others to seek out support from a psychologist.
Taylor felt scared of what others would think of him because of the stigma around mental health in the Aboriginal community.
In spite of that, Cohen uses this year’s NAIDOC theme to push through the hard times.
“Get up, show up and stand up, to me that basically means our mob should be proud of who we are and where we come from and embracing it,” Taylor said.
“One of my sista girls said ‘turn power into pain’ and that really resonated with me.”
Being a finalist for the running of Mr NAIDOC, Taylor said he felt nervous and privileged for the opportunity.
When he was crowned the inaugural Mr NAIDOC, Taylor couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
After his friend sent him the application to apply, Taylor knew this an opportunity he did not want to miss out on.
“One of my sista girls sent through the application,” Taylor said.
“Necause this is the first Mr NAIDOC, I saw it and I started djerpin wicked (getting happy) this is the opportunity that I don’t think I could pass up”
Taylor is a strong Noongar/Yamatji man who takes pride in who he is, whether he is among his own people or fellow police officers.
With each life experience he has managed to come out on top so far.
“With my knowledge about my mob, I can use it to the benefit of my community, whilst remaining true to myself and my values and changing the way people see, interact, and connect with the uniform,” Taylor said.
Mr NAIDOC Award winners:
Winner: Cohen Taylor
Runner up: Thomas Betts
Moordij Maaman: Philip Ugle
Doolan Award: Tyson McEwan
SRG Global traineeship award: Darcie McGurie