David Wirrpanda’s football career with the West Coast Eagles saw his name become a household word in WA.
He played 227 matches, including the 2006 AFL premiership victory, from his debut in 1996 until his retirement in 2009. His success on the field has made him one of the most influential Aboriginal people in Australia and he has also received recognition as one of WA’s most Inspirational People of the Year in 2008.
In his early life in Victoria, his mother’s family established Worawa College for Aboriginal young people who had not engaged with mainstream education. The value of education was constantly reinforced; a lesson which Mr Wirrpanda takes through life with him.
In 2005 he established the David Wirrpanda Foundation with a view to providing mentors and role models to Aboriginal children and young people and thus empower Aboriginal people and their communities.
Mr Wirrpanda’s work in promoting strong role models and healthy life choices is intended to increase school retention and connection with education, and to give Aboriginal young people a strong basis for further study or entry into the workforce. The foundation works with Aboriginal role models and mentors to provide a number of tailored programs for young people, including a program for high school girls, health programs and a work-readiness program.
His aim through this is to make change slowly from the ground up – change that will be sustainable.
In 2012 Mr Wirrpanda was named National NAIDOC Person of the Year.