Rory O'Connor

Hard work, passion and perseverance are the driving forces behind many successful business models, and Rory O'Connor, Director of Yugambeh Museum in Beenleigh, can attest to this fact.

The former journalist, now Director of Yugambeh Museum in Beenleigh, is the driving force behind many positive initiatives keeping Yugambeh heritage alive in the South East Region.

Rory is a descendant of Jackey-Jackey, King of Logan-Pimpama, and also Jenny Graham, a prominent Aboriginal woman in the South East Region.

"I grew up in an ordinary family environment, with eight kids, on a goat farm at Rochedale," he said.

"My father is English / Irish, and my mum is Aboriginal. Through her family, I learned the stories of my ancestors."

Rory's strong vision and passion for sharing his culture's stories set him apart.

"When I was about 16, I was at a NAIDOC event. I spoke about characters from my mum's family, and everyone was very interested," he said.

"Many Aboriginal people have lost contact with their land and ancestry. Yugambeh people are privileged that we haven't, thanks to our Elders.

"Around five years ago, my Aunty Ysola was working with my mum at Yugambeh Museum. My Aunty died, and I realised that if I didn't help mum at the museum, the work they had previously done, the stories they had recovered, would all be in jeopardy.

"I found myself part of this amazing initiative, and thought, 'how do I get this to the community?' I wanted to publicise the work of others before me."

In recent years, on a shoe-string budget, Rory has turned a small office overseen by his mother Patricia ? a volunteer ? into a modernised facility open to the community.

"We are preserving and promoting the culture of our ancestors. We are taking the language that was once lost and making it accessible to all locals on an everyday basis," he said.

"We also run the Drumley Walk ? an annual 70km Aboriginal heritage walk that travels from Beaudesert to Southport."

Rory still has big goals ahead, aiming to help Yugambeh Museum tap into the Gold Coast's billion dollar tourism market. It's no small task. But with someone as motivated, passionate and hard-working as Rory O'Connor at the helm, one can't help but believe the Yugambeh culture is in safe hands.

DESCRIPTION: Photography by Profile Photographics.