Jordan’s cuppa with ‘Cossie’

by Emilie Ng

Honorary cuppa: Australia’s Governor-General Peter Cosgrove (centre) in Brisbane with a group including Chris Gould (second from left) and Jordan Briggs (second from right), and Rosies volunteers. Photo: Emilie Ng

JORDAN Briggs thought the highlight of his Saturday night would be swigging down a hot coffee outside St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane.

Mr Briggs, a New Zealand native, has been “on and off homeless” for the past five years.

He has no income and a dried-up savings account, but offers to do housework in exchange for a roof over his head.

“That’s how I’m surviving at the moment,” Mr Briggs said.

On May 21 he finished an ordinary day playing video games, then wandered over to the cathedral for a coffee with friends.

“And suddenly I’m meeting the most powerful man in Australia and calling him ‘Cossie’,” Mr Briggs said.

Cossie talks to Mr Briggs for a good five minutes about life on the streets.

“We just sort of shot the breeze a bit,” Mr Briggs said.

They even pose for a quick photo.

Cossie, better known as Australia’s Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, was in town with his wife Lady Lynne Cosgrove, to thank supporters of Catholic charity Rosies at a reception dinner.

Sir Peter has been the charity’s patron since 2014, soon after his appointment as Governor-General, but was co-patron for Rosies since 2005.

“As your patron I like to come back from time to time,” he said on May 21.

In his short speech to the supporters, Sir Peter quoted a line from the official Rosies prayer “that’s impressed the daylights out of me”: That we might simply become the place where you and they meet in the power of your love and the joy of your friendship.

“I think the way of prayer often beats so much of the ordinary day-to-day rhetoric,” he told the supporters.

“You’re not only abiding by that, you’re living it.

“Thank you so much for being part of Rosies.”

At the reception, the Governor General took time to meet each Rosies supporter personally.

But there were a few others he wanted to meet.

Every Friday and Saturday evening, Rosies runs an outreach outside St Stephen’s, which happened to be next door to the charity’s reception for supporters.

The outreach offers volunteers a chance to share a coffee and chat with their “friends on the street”.

Sir Peter walked over to the outreach van at the end of the reception to meet the homeless, people like Mr Briggs.

“It makes me feel like a bundle of nerves, to be honest,” Mr Briggs said of the meeting.

“This is the man who talks to the Queen on a regular basis.

“I look to this man, the most powerful man in the country, right in front of us, and it’s … I don’t want to say humbling (but) it’s a hell of a thought that he can rock up here and go, ‘I’m taking my time out of my day to do this’.

“That right there, that is mind-boggling to me.”

Mr Briggs was not the only Rosies friend who was touched by the Governor General’s presence and interest.

Chris Gould, a former homeless man and faithful supporter to those struggling on the streets, was chuffed to shake hands with Sir Peter.

“It brings out peace and happiness that someone’s looking after everyone,” Mr Gould said.

He was also fortunate to tell the Governor General that the homeless needed more help from the government.

“When I spoke to him before, he understood what I was saying,” he said.

“There’s hope, not just people (politicians) arguing all the time.”

Although Mr Gould is no longer homeless, he spends time around the Rosies van when they meet outside St Stephen’s.

“Everyone around me, I feel for them and I’m still helping them out,” he said.

“I wish I could do more, but that’s it.”

Both Mr Briggs and Mr Gould are among the 1000 friends supported by Rosies across Queensland each week.

Founded by the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate in 1987, the charity has becomes friends with 52,000 people living on the streets, in detention centres, prisons, courts and drop-in centres.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are about 20,000 homeless people in Queensland every night.

Their core mission is not handing out food or beverages to the marginalised but offering friendship to people like Mr Briggs and Mr Gould.

Knowing the Governor-General of Australia is a friend is a huge comfort for both men.

“It’s really good – he listened to me,” Mr Gould said.

The next step would be convincing the government to listen to their cries.

“The biggest thing I feel is access to services that can help house people, people who may not have the life skills to manage themselves,” Mr Briggs said.

“Everyone needs help, honestly,” Mr Gould said.

*Originally published by The Catholic Leader on 25 May 2016