Karabar's Isaac Cotter receives OAM in Australia Day Honours

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New Zealand-born Isaac Cotter may boast the name of a famous ACT dam, but it was another local dam that persuaded him to make his home in Australia.Mr Cotter was just 16 when he scored work labouring on the Googong Dam south of Queanbeyan during a trip to Australia to see his brother.
“My first week, I got $480 in my pay.
And back in New Zealand on the farm, it was $40 a week.
I thought they'd made a big mistake in my wages.
And if you worked a Saturday, you made an extra $150.
I thought, 'Cripes, I might stay here',” he said.
“So one thing led to another and 48 years later, three children, two grandchildren, my wife and I are still here in Queanbeyan.” While he became an Australian citizen in 2007, Mr Cotter never forgot his roots.
He has worked tirelessly to promote the Maori culture in Australia, make New Zealanders feel welcome in Australia and encourage ties between New Zealand and Australia.
Chief among this has been as director of the Maori cultural performing group Tumanako, which was formed in 2004, appearing everywhere from funerals to the National Multicultural Festival.
But he has contributed in innumerable ways, whether it be as the inaugural chairman of Taki Toa – the Queanbeyan and Canberra Maori Rugby Union – to volunteering as presenter of the Maori program on Canberra Multicultural Service Radio FM 91.1.
For his efforts, Mr Cotter, 64, has been recognised for his service to the Maori community of Australia and New Zealand, by being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australian (OAM) in the 2024 Australia Day Honours.
“It's a massive honour to receive an award like this,” he said.
“Yes, I am receiving it but it's a combination of what we call 'whanau', 'hapu', 'iwi' which is family, extended family and your tribal affiliations, in this case the community.” Mr Cotter and his wife Patricia live in Karabar.
He has a furniture removal business but is kept busy with his many community roles.
He established the Maori cultural performing group in 2004, calling it Tumanako, which means “hope”.
“It was established to help people connect to their culture through the performing arts,” he said.
Mr Cotter's family lived on a sheep and cattle farm outside Gisborne on the north island of New Zealand but he has spent almost five decades in Australia.
“I've grown up here most of my life.
I love it here in Australia and I love it in Aotearoa or New Zealand.
I have the pleasure and honour to be able go backwards and forwards through my culture and to catch up with family,” he said.

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