Ivan Copley

“I believe that the AILC Course has empowered me and provided me with holistic skills and a belief that I, as an Aboriginal person, can contribute to changes in Community that will have long lasting effects on Closing the Gap on disadvantage and through awareness highlight the needs of Aboriginal Peoples to the Non-Aboriginal People of Australia through the Reconciliation Process”

Ivan Copley was born and raised in Adelaide, SA. near the Adelaide airport. He is a descendant of Peramangk people of the Mount Lofty Ranges and of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains. Ivan has committed his life to doing community work related to Aboriginal employment and with long-term unemployed people. He is currently working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics as the Community Engagement Manager. He is Chairperson of the local Reconciliation Reference Committee and Chairperson of the Indigenous Information Network of South Australia.

Ivan is a leader and role model in his community. His significant impact and dedication was recognised by his award of South Australian of the Year in 2009 and his receipt of an Order of Australia Medal in 2012. A few of his goals include the restoration of language and the recording of knowledge and Cultural Knowledge for future generations to learn from. He was also involved in establishing a website of indigenous nature ‘Indigenous Information S.A. Online’ (www.iisaol.com.au), which had been a goal of his for several years.

Ivan completed the Certificate 2 Course in 2002. This course was particularly significant in providing tools to deal with challenges through the gaining of knowledge, empowerment and self-belief in his abilities. As a leader in his own community, the leadership qualities identified in the course strongly resonated with Ivan. These included: a strong code of conduct and integrity, allowing for the diversity of indigenous peoples – traditional and urban, the pursuit of excellence, allowing for appraisal by mentors, the skills to share information, knowledge and networks, applying yourself with confidence and commitment against the odds and the ability to nurture true spirit and potential in every Indigenous Australian.  

The course called on students to identify their vision for the future and to identify what they could do as an Aboriginal person. Ivan said that this set a pathway of gaining knowledge and more education, and a desire to use the skills learnt to work in the community.

“[the course] provided me with the tools, knowledge and ability to want to achieve more, and the more I was noticed and recognised then the more I could stand up and be heard by the people that could makes changes for our Peoples”

For Ivan a key impact of the course on his life was empowerment. Ivan expressed that prior to the course it was difficult not to question his existing skill set, given that he had worked in the same sector, with Aboriginal people and long-term unemployed, for the majority of his working life. The AILC course empowered Ivan, by affirming and endorsing his existing skill sets, and also through the development of new skills. The course nurtured those skills and provoked him to think about how they could be tied back to community to assist governance. He believes that his own empowerment has empowered many others along the way and he now sees those younger and older people achieving amazing things.

Ivan found that a significant element in his empowerment was being surrounded by a network of strong, supportive Aboriginal people who were leaders in their own right. Mick Dodson was a personal mentor for Ivan during the course. Ivan expressed that this network was a source for obtaining better skills and support and mentoring. This instilled self-belief in Ivan, and the other students, that they could do things that they hadn’t thought possible before the course.  Ivan is extremely humble in acknowledging his successes. When he received the South Australian of the Year in 2009 Ivan recalls turning to Mick Dodson, who was also receiving an award on stage, and remarking that it was Mick’s mentoring and the example he had set through his achievements that had influenced Ivan’s own achievements. He attributes his accomplishments to the high-achieving people he has been surrounded by and the Aboriginal people that have mentored him and been a part of his journey.

In his professional life Ivan has used many of the management and governance skills developed in the course, as well as the media and publicity practice that they had. While on the course Ivan had the opportunity to interview Phillip Ruddock at parliament house and course members presented their own ideas to members of parliament. He said that activities such as this stretched the group well beyond what they thought they were capable of but showed them that they were indeed capable and could continue to hone their skills. This allowed them to grow very quickly over the duration of the course.

Ivan believes that the courses delivered by the AILC are significant for Aboriginal people many of whom have a strong skill set, but do not possess formal qualifications such as university education. Graduates of the course receive accreditation, and the course is often the impetus for further study and education. Ivan said that the course stretched him and the other participants, bringing them out of their own comfort zones and notions of what they thought they were capable of doing. Despite the challenges present, what was significant to Ivan’s growth was that this challenge occurred in a supportive, comfortable environment.

For Ivan, the Course provided the tools to deal with any challenge that has been presented to him over the past several years through the gaining of knowledge, empowerment, confidence and self belief in his own ability.