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WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.

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Malcolm Cole

24 July 2021 // Malcolm Cole

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Malcolm Cole (1949-1995) Aboriginal and South Sea Islander from Far North Queensland. In 1968 aged nineteen, Cole left his hometown of Ayr, Queensland, for Warrang (Sydney).


He joined the professional Indigenous dance course established by Carol Johnson at the Black Theatre in Redfern in 1976 and he formed part of the first student cohort alongside Lillian Crombie, Dorathea Randall, Cheryl Stone, Wayne Nicol (Deceased), Daryl Williams, Michael Leslie, Richard Talonga and Philip Langley.


The course became the Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Scheme (AISDS) and toured as the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre (AIDT). The teaching arm became NAISDA Dance College in 1988 and members of the performance arm founded Bangarra Dance Theatre. 

Cole is noted for his iconic contribution to the 1988 Sydney Gay Mardi Gras Parade. Conceived by Cole and artist Panos Couros,  he took on the character of Captain Cook and re-enacted the arrival of the First Fleet in a boat of black sailors, pulled by a white man. This was the first Aboriginal float entry in the parade.


Along with Lillian Crombie, Cole became the first co-presenter for the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television program, Blackout in 1989. He worked as a teacher and counsellor at the Aboriginal Dance Theatre, Redfern and taught dance as an artist in residence at many Australian schools.


He participated in the First National Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Conference in Alice Springs in 1992. Unwell with symptoms of HIV/AIDS, Cole was cared for by his twin brother Robert at their home in Far North Queensland, where he died in 1995.


He is memorialised through The Malcolm Cole Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Performing Arts Scholarship, provided by the University of New South Wales and the Alexandria Public School awards called ‘Malcolms’ handed out at their weekly assembly. Additionally a street, Malcolm Cole Terrace is located in the Canberra suburb of Whitlam in Australia's Capital Territory (ACT) and named in his honour.

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