Thanks to the City of Cockburn for sharing this story with us. Article and photograph by Michele Nugent, City of Cockburn Media and Communications Officer.
Rev Mitchell Garlett is Quintessentially Cockburn
The Garlett family has been making firm cross-cultural connections in Coolbellup since 1986 and those links are set to continue their well-worn path into Cockburn’s future.
In a happy example of history repeating, Mitchell Garlett was appointed Reverend of the Uniting Presbytery of Western Australia’s Coolbellup parish – Maaman ‘O’ Miya – in March 2022 following his ordainment the previous November.
He is ably following in the respected footsteps of his late father Rev Sealin Garlett AM, who held the role for more than 20 years until he retired in 2016, before passing away in 2019.
Mitchell’s familiar soft-spoken influence is enabling the continuation of this successful source of enduring community connection, stamped with his own brand of intuitive leadership that continues his father’s legacy of welcoming all people.
A proud Whadjuk Nyungar man, Mitchell arrived in Coollbellup in 1986 with his father and mother Marilyn (nee Riley) as a three-year-old and has strong country, familial and community connections in the region, making him unquestionably and Quintessentially Cockburn.
He attended the former Koorilla School and graduated Year 12 from the former Hamilton Senior High School, playing hundreds of games of basketball at Wally Hagan stadium and with the Cooby Cats Football Club.
With strong family links to his birthplace of Pingelly and Ngadju, Ballardong, Whadjuk and Badimaya Boodja, Mitchell is also recognised in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
As a small child he was given the name Yukkhart – bottle-nose dolphin in the local First Nations language – by an Elder of the Lardil people of Mornington Island, or Goonana.
At that time, Mitchell’s father was in his early 20s and completing his first role as a pastor, seamlessly joining Christian teachings with First Nations’ enduring links to and respect for Country throughout his calling.
Today Mitchell, his wife Janice (nee Edwards) and their children Sealin Jnr (21), Lorenzo (20), Freda (18), Mitchell Jnr (14) and Clarence (13) live in the manse house where Mitchell grew up. And four-year-old grandson Kiahn, who also carries the name of family forefather Borndigal, is firmly in the busy Garlett family mix.
Mitchell answered his calling to the church in 2015 and graduated in the Christian Ministry and Theology from Nungalinya College in Darwin, like his father before him, also completing studies at Murdoch University Theological Hall.
Following his ordainment, Mitchell became a member of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) WA Regional Committee. His father, a member of the Stolen Generations, was also a long-standing UAICC national chairperson.
“It’s a fortunate example of history repeating itself. We are very thankful to be here in this house, in this community,” Rev Garlett said.
“When that letter came I had a good feeling. We could have been going anywhere in WA, but in the back of my mind I felt there was a chance history could repeat. It was fitting for our family and the community.
“Maaman ‘O’ Miya is open to everyone, whoever walks in the door, whoever I meet on the street, families from everywhere, not just Cockburn.
“My role as a Minister goes beyond the borders of Nyungar country and extends throughout the state.”
And what of his favourite haunts in Cockburn? Coogee Beach, Woodman Point and Port Coogee feature strongly.
“Anywhere near the ocean, the water. It gives a sense of calm. We’ve always taken the kids fishing and swimming,” he said.
“The salt water is like a medicine for your spirit.”
He also spoke of the importance of bushland, relating his family’s connection to Cooby bushland adjacent to the church and his home.
“Dad always passed on the importance of bushland and having a personal connection with Country so it was very disturbing to see that Coolbellup bush destroyed as part of the Roe 8 actions, especially when it was so significant to local Aboriginal people,” he said.
“The local Aboriginal community was vocal but what was really wonderful was the non-indigenous people who joined us in the fight. It brought our whole community together.
“Everyone was connected to that place and each other and it continues today.”
Article and photograph by Michele Nugent, City of Cockburn Media and Communications Officer. Shared with permission.