Abeselom Nega



When you speak to iEmpower CEO and Human Rights Commission Board member Abeselom Nega, you are left in no doubt that he is driven by a determination to make a difference.

Born in Ethiopia, Abeselom was a teenager when his home country was torn apart by civil war. After making the precarious journey by foot, Abeselom spent two years in refugee camps in Sudan and Egypt. He says the journey to the relative safety of the refugee camp was so dangerous that successfully crossing the border "came down to luck".

In the late 1980s he was resettled from a Cairo refugee camp to Brisbane, at a time when there was an emotive debate about multiculturalism taking place in Queensland.

Abeselom credits an extensive support network for newly arrived refugees for instilling a drive to help other people, amid settling into a community where he was "a very visible minority". While he did experience occasional racism, Abeselom's credits Brisbane as "the perfect place to finish school and go to university".

Over the next three decades, driven by a desire to make a valuable contribution to minority groups, Abeselom worked with community organisations as well as the state and federal public service, which would help him reach his ultimate goal of assisting newly arrived migrants and refugees who arrive in Australia under difficult circumstances.

"Every minute of every second that you live, you appreciate because you have seen so many tragedies in your life. The people who settle in Australia have the capacity to be productive citizens. But they need some help and support in the initial years of settlement."

In the mid 2000's Abeselom founded iEmpower, an organisation that began in regional NSW working with Indigenous young people. In 2008, buoyed by extensive community support for the organisation he founded and a determination to support as many young people as possible, Abeselom made the permanent move to Victoria to expand iEmpower.