Emre Celik

Adrian Appo OAM

Bachelor of Teaching in Adult Vocational Education (1995)

Founder of Ganbina

UTS Indigenous Alumni Award 2017

Adrian Appo’s drive for self-determination for Indigenous people has been motivated by the daily struggles he and his family members have faced accessing education, dealing with financial and government bureaucracies, and getting meaningful work.

“I don’t want to live in a world where my children and their children have to face that same racism as my dad and me,” he says, “and this mindset has transformed into improving the career and life prospects for a whole lot of other people.”

Prior to studying at UTS, Adrian served with the Royal Australian Air Force, for which he was later awarded the Australian Defence Medal in 2001. After graduation, he worked as a teacher and a recruitment consultant, focused on providing new employment opportunities to the Goulburn Valley community in regional Victoria.

“We want to bring more Aboriginal people into the economic environment in Australia. Real determination happens when you’re controlling your own economy.”

In the late 1990s, Adrian was frustrated by the limitations of working in generic government funded employment programs. Drawing on the skills he had gained at UTS for establishing not-for-profit programs, Adrian founded Ganbina, Australia’s most successful Indigenous ‘education to employment’ program.

Ganbina has helped more than 500 young Indigenous Australians finish school, access further education and training, and secure worthwhile jobs with real career growth opportunities. It has always operated without any form of government funding.

Adrian has developed partnerships with local communities, including families and businesses, and consults with various government bodies on other employment and economic development strategies.

Currently Adrian is a director for several social enterprises including the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship, Social Ventures Australia, and Children’s Ground, an organisation helping parents raise their children to be both strongly immersed in their Indigenous culture and fully engaged in the Western world.

Adrian was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011 for service to Indigenous youth through career planning, employment and training programs. He has also received a Centenary Medal for his work with Indigenous young people.

His current major focus is his role as Chair and Executive Director of First Australians Capital, an investment fund that helps Indigenous businesses to thrive.

“We want to bring more Aboriginal people into the economic environment in Australia,” he says. “Real determination happens when you’re controlling your own economy. It shouldn’t be just my journey or First Australians Capital’s journey – it should be a journey for all Australians.”

2017 Alumni Awards Adrian Appo OAM


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