At a glance
By Katie Langmore
As principal advisor finance business partnering at Rio Tinto, Alex Graham FCPA is no stranger to balancing multiple competing priorities, having had years of practice in his former role as management accountant at the Australian Catholic University, where a large part of his role was to oversee the financial management of several campuses across Australia.
On top of his large workload, over the past few years, Graham has taken on two pro-bono roles. The first is with Hymba Yumba Independent School (HYIS), a school south of Brisbane with more than 80 per cent Indigenous student enrolments. The other is Murri Watch, an organisation that supports Indigenous people before, during and after incarceration.
In his work with Hymba Yumba, Graham helps the school executive manage the budget and, as the school is experiencing burgeoning growth, put governance structures in place to manage and plan for its increasing size.
“It’s a great school,” he says. “They’re working toward getting more and more Year 12 graduates.”
With Murri Watch, Graham sits on the board of directors and is also chair of the finance committee, helping manage grants and reporting obligations. The organisation is primarily reliant on grants, so the success of applications is crucial.
“Incarceration rates are so high and so disproportionate that we need to do everything we can to stop those Murri kids ending up in the system,” Graham says. “Murri Watch is fantastic – it has such a good reputation, it receives requests from organisations around Australia, wanting to implement similar diversionary and supportive programs in their community.”
For Graham, a Gubbi Gubbi man, the mission of both organisations is personal – the Murris of the region are his mob. He says that, like for many First Nations people growing up in urban Australia, to embrace his Indigenous identity or not is a conscious choice.
“To be true to myself, I have – it’s about connecting with my community and my history. Also, when you’ve been in Brisbane for as long as I have, it’s impossible not to have those networks and connections with the community.”
Graham hopes to continue supporting both organisations, despite his busy work schedule.
“I’d really like to use whatever connections I have in the business world to help Hymba Yumba get some sponsorship and grow the school,” he says.
“And the pro-bono work only takes a few hours of my time each month. To get out there and help your community isn’t a big imposition on your time.
“Through my career I’ve been given a lot of support, so it’s time to give back.”
Hymba Yumba Independent School
Hymba Yumba Independent School (HYIS) is in Springfield, Queensland, on the traditional land of the Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul people. It opened in 2011 with 50 students and today has 40 staff and more than 280 students, 80 per cent of whom are Indigenous.
Murri Watch is a not-for-profit organisation based in Woolloongabba, Queensland. It delivers a range of sensitive support services to Indigenous people who are detained in watchhouses and youth detention centres or who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.