Adrian Appo ... Local Hero

At last some proper recognition for one of our quiet achievers: Adrian Appo, CEO of Ganbina, a highly-successful indigenous employment training agency based in Shepparton Victoria, has been awarded the Order of Australia for services to his people.

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Adrian received his award for his long service to indigenous youth in regional Victoria through career planning, employment and training.

He is a visionary leader who takes the long-view on the future of indigenous Australians. He anticipates it will take two generations for Aborigines in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley to gain what he sees as “an equitable stake in the local economy.” But Adrian is determined to set them on the path to that position by helping to end indigenous dependency on welfare.

''It took generations to get to this stage, so it's going to take generations to get out of it,'' Adrian told The Age yesterday. ''Many kids don't have a model to follow in their own families, so kids who go through Ganbina become role models for their siblings.''

Born the seventh of eight children, Adrian overcame early racially-based setbacks. Despite possessing his high school certificate he was initially rejected when he applied to become an apprentice electrician, being told that Aborigines ''can't deal with conceptual ideas''.

Adrian’s Dad intervened to reverse the decision. Adrian successfully became an electrician, then an electronics engineer with the RAAF and a TAFE teacher. Then his passion for advancing his fellow Aborigines took him to Ganbina.

Adrian’s setbacks inspired him to prove the racists wrong by excelling at his work, and assisting other indigenous Australians to gain a career.

Ganbina helps guide indigenous Australians, aged five to 25, into paid work while they are still in school as a method of building career paths. It declines government funding, so that it can set its own training models, which seek alternatives to having its clients employed on the basis of affirmative action.

“Seeing the excitement of family and friends makes it more worth while than the actual award itself,” Adrian said yesterday.