Aziz Cooper (he/him) has been our Community Engagement and Inclusion Coordinator at Mill Park Leisure, TRAC and Whittlesea Swim Centre in Victoria, since August 2021.
As Community Engagement Coordinator, he supports connections between underrepresented communities with their local leisure venues for their health and wellbeing.
Where there is no natural fit to existing programs and services, Aziz co-produces initiatives with communities to ensure anyone who seeks access to venues is included.
“Over a 30-year career at government and peak community levels, I’ve always worked on community development endeavours that promote inclusion, diversity, capacity building and participation within disadvantaged communities. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine using these skills in the leisure industry. The work is very satisfying”, Aziz said.
What are some of your highlights working with Belgravia Leisure?
“Operating in the zone between leisure venues and underrepresented communities, I enjoy the synergy of partnering with local stakeholders towards co-producing programs that respond to important and practical social needs.
“Some recent highlights include establishing a drop-in centre for marginalised youth, co-designing Koori cultural swim lessons, producing culturally responsive water safety for refugee families, and coordinating health and wellbeing programs for culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities,” Aziz said.
What is your favourite and least favourite thing about your career?
“I’m always delighted to see the joyful expressions on the faces of Koori and refugee families as they have fun at the pool. My least favourite thing is drafting monthly reports which is definitely a drag,” Aziz said.
Where do you see yourself in the next three to five years?
“Throughout my working life, I’ve always collaborated on producing projects that promote inclusion, diversity, equity, capacity building, participation and social cohesion within diverse disadvantaged communities. Wherever my future takes me, I can’t imagine ever giving up these pursuits,” Aziz said.
What are three things you’re most passionate about in life and why?
“Travel. As a “cultural surfer”, I’ve travelled through 38 countries. Wherever I go, I immensely enjoy meeting new people and exploring their customs, beliefs and experiences.
“History. I’m a sucker for museums, documentaries and historical sites, anything that tells the highs and lows of the human story. As a community-minded person, this fascination has inspired me to reflect on past lessons so, hopefully, I can help play a role in preventing repeats of the worst aspects of human nature.
“Social cohesion. The way I see it, humanity is facing a range of near-future challenges, both natural and human-made. For the sake of our families, neighbourhoods and future generations, I partner with like-minded people towards trusting relationships across cultures, religions and political divides that foster harmony, diversity and sustainability.
“Despite the challenges ahead, there is always hope and I am passionate about sharing and learning together towards a better future,” Aziz concluded.