We write this farewell to recognise and to celebrate the life of David Cox and achievements as the compassionate volunteer, social worker, academic in the field of assisting migrants and refugees.
David graduated from high school in 1956 being a dux. David went to Europe in the 1956-57 period, deferring tertiary studies, to work as a volunteer in assisting refugees on the border of Austria-Yugoslavia. This experience reinforced his heart-felt commitment to respond and dedicate his life to addressing an Ecumenical wide problem. David Cox on his return with others and under the auspice of the World Council of Churches advanced the project idea of the Ecumenical Migration Centre which was subsequently located at 133 Church Street Richmond. David worked with EMC as a volunteer for many years whilst studying, being an active foundational member and Director till 1975.
The EMC assisted new migrants and ethnic organisations aiming at enabling and empowering them to manage difficult situations. There were not many services available which could respond in a culturally relevant way to migrant needs. The Ecumenical Migration Centre with David Cox, Alan Matheson, John Kalisperis, later Savas Augoustakis, supported many volunteers and assisted hundreds of migrants including Greeks. David carried an excessive workload for almost 20 years working with families, community organisations, churches, volunteers and government departments. His family, his partner Jenny Cox were his greatest support as were their two children Robyn and Markus.
David Cox received his tertiary education in Arts and Social Work at Melbourne University, whilst volunteering/working with EMC. David pursued further studies when he became in the late 1970s the CEO of International Social Services centre in Melbourne assisting migrants for intercountry matters.
David obtained in the 1970s whilst working, a PHD at Latrobe University under Professor Jean Martin in the field of the Sociology of Migration. He regarded the Interactional cross-cultural contact with families and individuals as the best education.
David after over 20 years of direct work in the refugee migration and international social services was invited in 1979 by Melbourne Academic Len Tierney to teach as a Senior Lecturer these fields in schools of social Work at Melbourne University. David was appointed as Professor of Social Work in 1988 at Latrobe University. During his teaching career influenced by his extensive field work experience, continued to provide fieldwork proposals to the United Nations and non-government organisations on refugee and social development matters.
He has published two books in social work with immigrants and more than 60 monographs, research reports, book chapters, journals articles in his selected areas. David Cox was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1984 for his services to the refugee and migration field.
Whilst working with Alan Matheson and their team at the Ecumenical Migration Centre they developed a sharing and caring culture ie: accessibility, informality, emphasising a cross-cultural interaction. John Kalisperis from the island of Kos for instance with his expressiveness and spontaneity added the café-drop-in centre approach, so young people can feel comfortable to join in to share their concerns in navigating a new society. Many people sought assistance searching for employment, related work injuries, family matters, basic information how to refer/access services.
David showed an enormous commitment and capacity to work with individuals, families and communities in a partnership manner. He believed that working with people to finding answers to problems was the most satisfactory part of his work, second to personal relationships as a source of stimulation.
We worked closely with David under different roles in different periods and experienced his exemplary character, integrity and dedication. His commitment to social development, addressing, overcoming poverty inequality, making services more accessible, and cross cultural understanding have been paramount in his work.
Many of the first group of Greek speaking social workers in the 1970’s had worked or have had a placement under Dr David Cox. We name only a few, Savas Augoustakis, Peter Gogorosis, George Darivakis, Roula Rodopoulos, Diana Batzias, A.Anagnostou, Penny Anagnostou, Kostas Tsingas, and Jack Nalpandidis. They at some period played a part in the social development of community based organisations like the ethno-specific services, Australia Greek Welfare Society, and Fronditha Care. Other communities as well as the broader Australian society have benefited by the continuous efforts of people like David and organisations that respect cultural diversity, recognise and respond to special migrant and refugee needs.
David’s legacy is eternal. May he Rest in Peace.