Matt Willson is proof of how early childhood - those formative years up to age eight – can influence the rest of our lives.
The award-winning volunteer and mental health crusader was fortunate to grow up in a small close-knit coastal satellite suburb on the southern outskirts of Perth.
There he lived in a safe natural environment where a bunch of kids grew up embracing each other’s differences and where support and understanding was always a house, a street or a hand shake away because everyone knew each other in that familiar ‘small town’ way.
That support was vital to Matt. As the eldest child in a family with a hard-working fly-in fly-out dad, a mum who was sometimes unwell and a younger sibling, he sometimes had to step up to help his family stay strong. And he thrived.
Accepting the help of others, and providing it too, built a resilience in Matt that he has since shared, including with many community groups right here in Cockburn over the past seven years.
Matt was joint winner of the City of Cockburn’s overall 2022 Community Citizen of the Year Award and his positive impact on our community is what makes him Quintessentially Cockburn.
When it came time for him to up sticks and move closer to education, employment and friendship groups in Perth, he found himself in Cockburn in 1998, eventually relocating permanently in 2005.
It’s where Matt is sharing the privilege of raising a daughter, and where he is a well-known and active member of the community where he has established staff mental health committees as a member of large local employers.
He’s also volunteered with several community groups including Beeliar Community Voice and Neighbourhood Watch, been a guide and coordinator at Perth Meditation Centre, and chairperson of Cockburn-based charity Black Dog On A Lead.
Matt first became involved in promoting mental health awareness after experiencing his own mental health challenges, forcing him to seek help in Cockburn.
This experience, combined with the birth of his daughter, made Matt realise how important his local community would be to his family’s happy, healthy future, just as it had been during his own childhood.
“I began to see how important community was and I started to look more closely at Cockburn to see how it could provide my daughter with the same support and security I had experienced growing up in a small town,” Matt said.
“I took a big step and joined Beeliar Voice Community Group and it made an immediate impact on my health. I quickly learned that help and support, both obvious and incidental, was a biproduct of getting involved with neighbourhood activities and meeting new people.
“It had the characteristics of my childhood and the small town I’d grown up in where people knew and cared about each other and where you could work towards a common goal that benefitted people.
“Cockburn as a large city hadn’t felt like that initially but every community and suburb within it has their own neighbourhood activity groups and these little villages break down those feelings of isolation and disconnection.”
He said getting involved in community activities and groups was not just Act Belong Commit in motion but enabled people to get to know themselves better, learn new skills and build resilience and confidence that could apply in other areas of life, including professionally.
Matt is currently on the Neighbourhood Watch WA Working Group and is a mental health advisor at a local primary school. He also hopes to become involved with the City of Cockburn Culturally and Linguistically Diverse reference group.
So where is Matt’s favourite place to visit in Cockburn? That idyllic stretch of Coogee Beach between the two jetties which is perfect for a walk or a jog at any time of the day.
To find out about community groups in Cockburn visit My Community Directory
. Easily find volunteering positions available in Cockburn visit the City of Cockburn website
Read about inaugural Quintessentially Cockburn inductee, Marissa Verma, here
, Anna Davey, here
, Soa 'The Hulk' Palelei, here
and Belinda Cipriano here
LATEST NEWS: You told us you wanted more grassroots news about what’s happening in your backyard here in the City of Cockburn.
We've created a dedicated space on the City’s website where the community can access the Latest News about what’s going on across the City’s 23 suburbs.
You’ll also be able to read our media releases, our responses to questions from media outlets, check out a weekly news wrap of some of the news stories impacting Cockburn and learn about City events.
Plus in a fresh newsy segment called Quintessentially Cockburn, we’re preparing regular feature articles about some of our unique, iconic Cockburnalities and those fascinating movers and shakers making their names known in our City and further afield.
To stay connected with Cockburn, be sure to bookmark this helpful Latest News
page on the City’s website.