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Open Right

Abdi Aden

Corporate, Inspirational Speaker, Speaking Out

Abdi’s world fell apart when he was only fifteen and Somalia’s vicious civil war hit Mogadishu. Unable to find his family and effectively an orphan, he fled with some sixty others, and joined another 300 heading to Kenya. On the way, death squads hunted them and they daily faced violence, danger and starvation. After almost three months, they arrived in at refugee camps in Kenya – of the group he’d set out with, only five had survived.

All alone in the world and desperate to find his family, Abdi couldn’t stay in Kenya, so he turned around and undertook the dangerous journey back to Mogadishu. But the search was fruitless, and eventually Abdi made his way – alone, with no money in his pockets – to Romania, then to Germany, completely dependent on the kindness of strangers. He was just sixteen years old when he arrived in Melbourne. He had no English, no family or friends, no money, no home. Yet, against the odds, he not only survived, he thrived. Abdi went on to complete secondary education and later university. He became a youth worker, was acknowledged with the 2007 Victorian Refugee Recognition Award and was featured in the SBS second series of Go Back to Where You Came From.

Despite what he has gone through, Abdi is a most inspiring man, who is constantly thankful for his life and what he has. Everything he has endured and achieved is testament to his quiet strength and courage, his resilience and most of all, his warm-hearted, shining and enduring optimism.

Where were your born?

I was born in Somalia.

What other jobs have you had?

I have been a Youth Worker for over 13 years.

What themes are recurring in your work?

My work revolves around community development. Overcoming hardship, mental health issues, adolescence and difficult social positions are themes that tend to recur in youth work.

What have been the highlights of your career?

My greatest ongoing professional achievement is creating development programs for young people and their families. My biggest personal achievement was gaining my Bachelor of Arts in Community Development. Other highlights include being acknowledged with the 2007 Victorian Refugee Recognition Award and my involvement in the SBS documentary series, ‘Go Back to Where You Came From’.

What are you passionate about?

Supporting social change and the promotion of human rights.

Haven’t I seen you before?

Probably on the SBS series ‘Go Back to Where You Came From’. My youth work has also featured in The Age and numerous local Melbourne papers and Today Tonight ran a story in 1996 on my family’s reunification after years of war. More recently, you might have seen me promoting the VicHealth report on what to do as a bystander witnessing racism.


Children and families loved the visit and were very interested and engaged. The visit was perfect and Abdi was able to adjust his talk to suit the young audience. I can’t wait to read Abdi’s book and think he is an inspiration.

—R. McKerral, Hume City Council, June 2017

Abdi Aden, who spoke to our year 5 and 6’s last Friday, was spot on. Unfortunately, I had classes at that time so couldn’t be there, but the classroom teachers in attendance said it was the highlight of their week. What he spoke about fitted perfectly into the units of inquiry about diversity for the year 6’s and migration for the year 5’s.

—J. Butler, Caulfield Grammar School, June 2017

Abdi was truly an engaging speaker and had the students enthralled by the recount of his personal life experiences. He has a powerful message to convey and it is told with the appropriate level of seriousness, mingled with a charming – and one might even say – wicked sense of humour. I was particularly impressed in the manner by which he was able to weave in a discussion of the specific points I requested of him to address, so as to tie in with our Literacy Week celebrations. Also, I am still touched by the vision of a large number of our Year 9 boys and girls who took the time to go up to him and shake his hand and chat with him, straight after the presentation. In addition, staff were effusive in their praise of Abdi as a person and more so, as a guest speaker. Thank you very much.

—G. Ripolli, Reservoir High School, September 2016

Thank you for sharing with us such an amazing presentation.  In speaking to students they really enjoyed your presentation and took home your key messages of self-belief, hard work and overcoming adversity.  For some of the students, I am certain it would have been the first time they would have heard firsthand about the impact of war on individuals and families. The way in which you delivered this content was meaningful, impactful and thought provoking.

—S. Balzer, Southern Cross University, November 2015

I would like to pass on to Abdi our greatest appreciation for his attendance last week at our Staff Day (St Mary’s Cathedral College). The staff enjoyed and were captivated by Abdi’s talk and experiences.

—A. Ciaschetti, St Mary’s Cathedral College, July 2013

Abdi was excellent, honest and well-prepared. The students loved Abdi’s story, humour and humanity despite all he had seen.

—A. Godfrey, Buckley Park College, March 2013

The audience was highly impressed with Abdi, his presentation, honesty, passion and sense of humour.  One week on and I am still having people contact me to tell me how inspiring and educational the presentation was.

—P. Barton, Mercy Connect Ballarat/Mercy Works

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