Dr Cokley worked as a reporter and feature writer, subeditor, trainer and website developer at News Corporation in Brisbane, Australia, between 1985 and 2002, after working for the "Daily Sun" newspaper and the Australian Associated Press wire service (1984-1985). He continues to maintain a level of professional practice in the private sector and is a member of Editors Victoria and the Journalism Education Association (Australia). He began teaching journalism at universities after graduating with a bachelor's degree in business (communication/journalism) from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 1990 as well as continuing to write for engineering, retail and indigenous magazines, books and newspapers. He was the first Journalist-in-Residence at Griffith University (2002), lectured in journalism at James Cook University, Townsville (2003-2004) and at the University of Queensland (2005-2012). He joined Swinburne in 2012.