Birdman’s flock of volunteers the secret to his success

Joel Cornwell (aka Birdman) with his bird Dancer (25). Joel won the Community Citizen of the Year award at the recent City of Gosnells Community Citizen of the Year Awards. Picture: David Baylis. d490553
Joel Cornwell (aka Birdman) with his bird Dancer (25). Joel won the Community Citizen of the Year award at the recent City of Gosnells Community Citizen of the Year Awards. Picture: David Baylis. d490553

HE lives his life on “a wing and a prayer” and splits his time between looking after an array of birds and helping to feed those who need it most.

But ask Joel Cornwell about his work and he will simply tell you one thing: his volunteers deserve all the credit.

The man known as ‘Birdman’ was named City of Gosnells’ Citizen of the Year for helping to feed more than 1500 people weekly by collecting fruit and vegetables and distributing them to various groups in need.

His Cocky’s Corner stand at Canning Vale Markets collects food for groups such as The Salvation Army, PAWS, Mission Australia, Communicare, WA Forest Alliance, Forest Rescue, Port Care, Church of Christ, Bethany Baptist Church, City Mission and various women’s refuges.

He lives his life by two guiding principles: ‘hunger has no religion’ and ‘the power is not of one, but many’.

If you ask Mr Cornwell how he felt about receiving the award, he will passionately tell you the volunteers who work with him, Anne Donnelly, Craig Durham and Dawn Telfer-Hiles, and Jax and John Tedesco, who fund his bay at the markets, deserve as much credit.

“These guys here behind the scenes work twice as hard as I do. I’m just a figurehead,” he said.

“I’m the fighter, they’re the people who hold me up, feed me, look after me, put bandaids on me if I need a bandaid.”

Birdman’s love for his birds is evident – he is rarely, if ever, seen without one – and credits them with saving his life.

“1997 was when I got my first parrot. My dad died of motor neurone disease and that was when I really hit the skids, my marriage broke up and I lost contact with my son,” he said.

“Someone said they’d found this parrot with a broken wing and one turned into 50.

“They’re my support; without them, I’m nothing. If they said to me ‘you can come to these awards, but don’t bring your birds,’ I wouldn’t be there.”

Birdman has travelled far and wide across Australia, meeting numerous people, including 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater in Margaret River.

However, despite his movements, his commitment to helping those less fortunate is evergreen.

“When you see people, you see their faces, the gratitude, and you get a letter coming back saying how much they appreciate it, that is what I get paid,” he said.