30 June 2021

Ian Trust AO

Ian Trust AO

Chairman and Executive Director, Wunan
Associate Diploma of Social Work
Certificate in Community Development

Earlier this month, the Queen’s Birthday Honours were announced recognising the diverse achievements and contributions made by Australians each year from all walks of life. Among them were many of our own University of South Australia alumni and wider community.

Social Work and Community Development graduate, Ian Trust AO, an Aboriginal community not-for-profit titan, was honoured for his distinguished service to the Indigenous community, to economic and social development, and to emerging first nations leaders.

A local Gija man from the small Aboriginal Wuggubun Community in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Ian studied at the University of South Australia in the late 70s and has spent the past four decades advocating and driving long-term socio-economic change for Aboriginal people. He's done this by providing real opportunities, investing in abilities, and by encouraging and rewarding aspiration and self-responsibility in his community.

Ian Trust AO (centre) at a sod turning ceremony to commence construction of the new Wunan Health and Wellbeing Centre in Kununurra last year. Source

“A good home, good attitude, good education, good job, good health and an optimistic outlook for the future ought to be the fundamentals of life, taken for granted and enjoyed by all Australians,” Ian says. “Unfortunately, this is still not the case for too many Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley, as it is one of the most disadvantaged areas in Australia. They face great challenges in their everyday lives.”

“A metaphor that I've developed to explain the key issues facing my people, the Aboriginal people of the East Kimberley, it's titled 'swimming the river'.”

“Families who have been swept down the river – instead of crossing – are more likely to be in poor health and living conditions, experience homelessness, domestic violence, mental illnesses, and suicide. Many of them have even lost their culture and language, or have ended up in prison.”

Illustration of Ian Trust's metaphor 'Swimming the River'
Watch Ian explain his “Swimming the River” analogy and the incredible work Wunan does here

As the Chairman since 2008 and Executive Director since 2004 of Wunan, based in the East Kimberley, Ian has been dedicated to ensuring Aboriginal people have access to the capabilities and opportunities they need to make positive choices, leading to independent and fulfilling lives to avoid these poor living conditions.

Being involved in the organisation since it’s foundation in 1997, Ian has led a number of initiatives that have made a meaningful difference to the lives around him. He is ensuring Aboriginal people achieve their full potential; to have dreams and have a real chance of achieving them.

From Child and Parent Centres (CPC) for local parents and their children to access parental support services within a culturally safe setting, to iBase, a business accounting specialist service providing expert financial management skills, and more services such as the Wunan Health & Well-Being Centre, Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY), Jobs and Skills Centres in Kununurra and Broome, and Wunan’s Pathways to Home Ownership Program, Ian’s strong leadership from within the Aboriginal community has been crucial to drive and maintain these and other countless development strategies.

Wunan initiative, iBase, a business accounting specialist service committed to providing reliable, affordable services that support success for Indigenous businesses around Australia. Source

On top of his transformational work with Wunan, Ian has also served as Director for the Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), Aarnja Board of West Kimberley, and a Board Member of North Regional TAFE.

He was also formerly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner (ATSIC) (Kimberley) and the Chairman of the Wunan ATSIC Regional Council.

“The difference between those who have learned to ‘swim the river’ and those who haven't is dependent upon three things: these are having access to opportunities in education, employment and housing.”

“We need to create a pathway to empowerment to support our people to become independent and fund programs that we know will support the movement of our people from crisis all the way through to change.”

For the full list of 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours in our University of South Australia Community announced earlier this month, visit our website here.

Back to story index


Other articles you may be interested in