The Inspirational Story of Lockie Cooke
Feb 16, 2015
Not many 26 year olds can say that they are retiring as CEO of a not-for-profit organisation. We interviewed Lockie Cooke, founder of ICEA.
How the story of ICEA began
It all started in 2006, I was in year 11 at Christchurch Grammar School and three of us boys were lucky enough to attend an indigenous leadership camp at a community up in the Kimberley One Arm Point (Ardyaloon in local language). This experience changed my life. I’ve always loved the outdoors and had previously played footy with indigenous guys but I really didn’t know anything about their culture. My eyes were opened whilst sitting by the campfire, listening to stories that had been passed on for thousands of generations. I saw a different side of Australia – one that I’d never heard of or thought about before.
The call to action for me was when we visited some schools up on the Dampier Peninsula. I went to kick the footy with the kids but they didn’t have a sporting box. I’d also noticed they didn’t have a school library either. Their facilities were vastly different from the private boy’s school I attended.
The following year, Christchurch Grammar was deciding what fundraising initiatives to support, I suggested we set up a school library at One Arm Point and Beagle Bay. The book drive we ran was a huge success. We managed to collect over five tonnes of books and raised $6000- enough to set up the libraries, a home school reader program in Beagle Bay and an IT area in the school.
The day after Year 12 leaver’s week, I went back up to the Kimberley met with Mick Albert. (Mick is an inspirational indigenous man who works at Garnduwa motivating indigenous youth through sport and wellbeing). Mick took me back up to the Dampier Peninsula where I asked the local Headmasters and community leaders “what is the best way a bunch of young kids from Perth can help you out?” The answer was unanimous: get the kids to come to school! From there we created an incentive program - offering kids something they value for coming to school -basic toys, games, books -mainly books and sporting equipment.
The Shell Questacon Science Circus is one of 14 partners of Shell Australia’s social investment portfolio, which aims to increase the employability of vulnerable and disadvantaged young Australians. Through education and support, Shell’s Social Investment will help youths aged 10 to 25 years in developing skills including maths and science that will assist them in unlocking their future career potential.
How did ICEA get involved with Shell Australia?
At end of 2009, the Telethon Institute introduced me to the social investment team at Shell Australia. At the time, I was 19 years old. I had enthusiasm but not much business sense. I hated the idea of charities having admin costs, so I worked as a Barista to cover the costs of my regional visits and held fundraising activities such as sausage sizzles, I guess I was a little naïve! The ‘aha’ moment came when the Telethon Institute advised me that companies donate money so people like me, so I didn’t have to be a barista to fund charitable activities.
I met with Shell between my university exams. I arrived at the Shell office with a very basic proposal (probably full of typos). It’s funny to think back now, but I’ll always appreciate how Shell understood the meaningfulness and the story behind what I was doing. Gemma Jones (then the SI Advisor now the Prelude SP Advisor) thanked me for my time, but advised that the social investment budget was already allocated. However, out of the blue, on Christmas eve Gemma gave me the best Christmas present yet. They’d managed to find a bit of money, approved by Bruce Steenson head of the Prelude project at the time, enough to support ICEA for the next 3 years. From that point on I didn’t have to be a Barista. I could focus my time on developing ICEA’s strategy.
The big jump was in 2012. ICEA had grown so quickly and we were struggling to keep up with demand. I was nervous about telling Shell that we were struggling. Kara Sloper (SI Advisor) was now my focal point and instead of backing out of the partnership (which I was worried about) she offered to help. Shell sent me on a two day mentoring intensive program were I used the time to plan ICEAs future.
We strategized, budgeted and created a structure for the board – this is where the new look ICEA was born. At the end of 2012, we submitted our second funding proposal to Shell for 2013 -2015. This time I had a slick glossy proposal (with no typos!). Shell were obviously impressed as our proposal was accepted at four times the original amount and ICEA was stronger than ever.
Shell has not only financially backed us for the last 6 years but they have believed in us. I like to think ICEA has made a positive impact on the young people from all across WA – from remote communities in Kimberley to the private schools in Perth.
What next for Lockie Cooke?
I turned 24 in 2014 and reality sunk in – if ICEA is truly a youth led organisation then it’s time for me to phase out.
When I made the decision to begin a new journey I was nervous to tell my peers but the response has been super positive. I know that I’m leaving ICEA in great hands. It’s really exciting watching these young kids grow as leaders and maybe become the next ICEA COO or CEO. There is an amazing energy, and great brand awareness from the huge following ICEA has. What we have created is sustainable beyond me and I am really proud of that. As for my next venture, I am listening to my heart and doing what I believe is going to genuinely create more happiness - watch this space!
What is the best piece of advice or something you have learned from the past ten years that will always be with you?
Living in Australia we are so fortunate to have access to our environment. The knowledge and connection the indigenous people have with their environment and country is a gateway to inner peace. To have inner peace allows you to live a happy, and prosperous life. Gaining a greater understanding of indigenous culture has given me is internal clarity . It is shaped my community and leadership skills to lead by example and that’s what we are creating for ICEA.
For more information on the ICEA Foundation please visit: http://iceafoundation.com.au