On September 9, Cootamundra’s Margaret Cossey was presented with the Order of Australia, at Government House in Sydney. NSW’s Investiture adhered to strict COVID measures, with each OAM recipient allowed only two guests, as well as being spread out evenly in the large ballroom. The Investiture Ceremony was streamed live on the Governor of NSW website, it can be re-watched under Honours & Awards, then Investiture Livestream, then Ceremony 5: Wednesday 9 September 2020, 1:00pm, at the 16:21 mark. Official Secretary to the Governor of NSW, Michael Miller opened the ceremony welcoming approximately 24 guests, then inviting Mr Dennis Wilson and NSW State Governor Margaret Beazley into the room. Everyone was on their feet at this stage, as the national anthem was played through the speakers, guests were observing and listening, instead of normally singing it out loud.

State Governor Beazley then conducted an acknowledgment of country, before saying these words: “In 1975, a decision was made to introduce what have been described as a, unique system of honours, it set to be unique, because it’s a system of honours that comes from nominations from the community,” she said. “It is the way we as an Australian nation, as a community, are able to put forward names of those that have contributed to society in very special ways, and in fact, in many special ways.

“The contributions to society through professions, through occupations, across so many disciplines, medicine, law, education, policing, defence services, emergency services, contributions to the community for disabled people, you could probably keep going all afternoon when you think about what people do that makes our society better.”

Then whilst Mrs Cossey was standing at the entrance, waiting to be presented with her medal, Secretary Miller said these words of her. “Mrs Margaret Mary Cossey. Mrs Cossey has been a special needs literacy teacher in both governments and catholic schools, as a former coordinator of Indigenous programs in government high schools. She became the founder and director of the publishing company, Indij readers,” he said. “Mrs Cossey is widely recognised as one of Australia’s most important figures in encouraging Aboriginal writers to write for young Australians. Almost all of the dozens of the indigenous authors published by Indij readers have not been previously published. She has promoted greater understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal Australia, as well as contributed to Indigenous literacy.

“For service to Indigenous literacy and special needs education, Mrs Cossey.” Margaret then walked over to a table to pickup the navy blue box containing the Order of Australia medal in the General Division, and pose for a photo, whilst being 1.5m away from the State Governor. After a few flashes of photographs are taken, the pair exchanged smiles with Mrs Cossey saying “thank you” and then, walking down the aisle through the guests, and out of the back of the room. When The Times asked Mrs Cossey what the special day was like, she said she appreciated the recognition a lot, although it was not about her, but the impact of the literacy work. “I was working long and hard hours during the days, but I had so much fun doing what I was doing,” she said.

Margaret Receives OAM“Being out in communities was great and being accepted into another culture is such an honour and privilege. There also weren’t enough contemporary stories around Aboriginal kids with integrity. “[And] I believe that culturally appropriate content is good for everyone, as you can only read what you know.” Margaret spent many years as a teacher and in 1993, she was teaching literacy as well as being a reading recovery teacher. During the final term of kindergarten, a survey would be conducted on kids to see if any of them were falling behind in terms of their literacy, letters and words. Mrs Cossey would then run an intensive program for about 30 minutes a day, helping bridge the gap in literacy with these kids. Margaret said, she always knew she wanted to put her literacy skills to go use helping others, and in 2000 she did that with the initiation of Indij Publishing, going full-time in writing and publishing. “Getting this medal, I appreciate it a lot. I thought it was a mistake at first. The medal isn’t anything about me,” Mrs Cossey said.