Saturday 25 July 2015 was a sad day. Kevin Cook, the first Indigenous head of Tranby Aboriginal College in Glebe, had died. Kevin, or Cookie, as he was known to everyone, had been confined to bed with emphysema for many years. The disease crippled his body but it did not constrain his mind. Cookie never gave up fighting for what he believed in, the rights of Aboriginal people, the working class, and the oppressed of the world. From his bed he advised and encouraged the never-ending flow of visitors. In all the years that I knew him I never heard him complain about his own predicament. Neither did I hear him badmouth a single person. He died as poor as he was born, because Cookie was concerned not with self-enrichment, but with the enrichment of the many.
Professor Heather Goodall, in introducing Cookie’s story, Making Change Happen, to readers said, ‘He was well-known as a unionist, as an advocate of innovative, Aboriginal-controlled adult education, highly respected as a nation-wide land rights organiser, a key player in transnational links with liberation movements and a man of exceptional integrity and dynamism.’
But Cookie’s book is not, in the normal sense, a book about him. Heather went on to say ‘Cookie was not interested in searching for the meaning of his own life. Instead, he has always focussed on what he grew up calling “sticking fats” – sticking together with fellow activists, sharing the good and the bad in everything he was involved in – sharing not just the hopes but the hard work to reach goals and the scarce resources you had to live on to get there’.
Kevin was born in 1939 of the Wandandian people, and grew up in the steel town of Wollongong on the New South Wales south coast.
He is much missed, a friend, comrade and inspiration. Cookie has always been, and always will be, the heart and soul of Tranby Aboriginal College.
Friends of Tranby