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Larry Kanoa

A dedicated, fearless advocate who helped shape boards, advisory councils and committees to ensure high-functioning governance to guide services and programs which support Aboriginal people.

Headshot of Larry Kanoa

Dedicating his life to influencing change and building pathways

Larry Kanoa is a proud Gunditjmara and Bunitj man. His mother is from the Gunditjmara Nation and his father is from the Bunitj Clan of the Iwaidja Nations. Larry was born in Mooroopna on 30 November 1953, where he lived for a short time with his parents. After this, the family travelled back to the southwest living in Port Fairy and Merino before settling in Greenvale, just outside of Heywood in Western Victoria, and so he grew up on his mother’s Country.

Larry’s early life was tough, growing up with not just his siblings but also extended family in the one house, where he learned to share and care for everyone and everything. This developed a fighting spirit which followed him through his early life and into the workforce. Larry was taught at a young age to be proud of who he was and where he came from, be to the point and respect those who respect you.

His first job in Aboriginal Affairs was as an Aboriginal Teacher Aide at Heywood Consolidated School, where he worked for five years. In 1984, Larry moved to Ballarat with wife Ann and 2 children, Stacy and Jon. In Ballarat, Larry’s passion for working within the Aboriginal community continued. He commenced working with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) including the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI), and the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BADAC) where he assisted community to develop and implement local and statewide plans that would build the foundation of future committees and strategies still in place today.

Following these community roles, Larry entered the Victorian Public Service, spending the next 26 years influencing change and building pathways for Aboriginal community members within 3 different government departments: the Department of Education, the former Department of Sustainability and Environment, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet with Aboriginal Victoria.

Larry has created, led and supported many boards, advisory councils and committees, especially in western Victoria. He has dedicated many extra hours to ensure effective, high-functioning governance to guide services and programs which support Aboriginal people, and that they are able to give evidence-based, direct advice to government. Whether it be in employment or volunteering in ACCOs, working as a public servant or volunteering in mainstream organisations, Larry has broken down barriers and paved the way for future generations to benefit from effective community voice and systemic change for Aboriginal people.

Larry has made a significant and continuing contribution over decades to the Aboriginal Education Centre of Federation University in Ballarat, including chairing its Board. Larry has been involved from the period when the now university was two separate education and training institutions, the Ballarat College of Advanced Education and the Ballarat School of Mines and Industries (1976-1998). These, together with the Wimmera Institute of TAFE (Horsham), amalgamated in 1994 to become the University of Ballarat. In 2014, the university became part of the Federation University of Australia. Larry has volunteered his expertise and time through all incarnations of the institution, to ensure improved opportunities for Aboriginal community members, especially young students.

Larry’s dedication to actively leading and contributing to the boards of ACCOs has ensured excellent governance, resulting in stability, growth, sustainability and respect for many of these organisations. One of Larry’s greatest achievements is his ongoing service with BADAC, where his wisdom and leadership are highly valued. For more than 35 years, Larry has contributed to the strong growth and strategic vision of BADAC. Larry has particularly contributed to BADAC as a Board Director (1985-1994, 2011-2014, 2018–2019), Chairperson (1995-2001) and in 2020, he stepped in to fill a vacant Treasurer position.

In addition to BADAC, Larry’s board, council and committee memberships have included: St Patrick’s College Board, Rotary Club Ballarat, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission’s Tumbukka Regional Council (2003-2005), Chairperson of the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (2000–2013), VALS Board, the Koori Aged and Disability Network Advisory Committee (KADNAC), South West/Wimmera Cultural Heritage Committee, Aboriginal Education Committee at the University of Ballarat, and the Koorie Engagement Advisory Group at the City of Ballarat.

Larry has been the recipient of many awards for his service to the community at local, regional and State level. His awards include receiving the:

  • University of Ballarat Aboriginal Education and Reconciliation Award (1999)
  • Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment Diversity Award (2004)
  • Victorian Department of Justice Community Justice Award (2005)
  • Ballarat NAIDOC Elders Award (2015)
  • Ballarat NAIDOC Raising the Profile of the Aboriginal Community Award (2015)
  • Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet’s award of 25 Years Outstanding Employment Within the Public Service (2016)

Larry is held in high regard in Ballarat and western Victoria for his dedication, fearlessness and advocacy. Two of Larry’s greatest attributes are his directness and honesty, which mean he is unafraid to give clear messages to his community and to government. Throughout western Victoria he has a broad reputation for wisdom, fairness and reliability. Larry is also known for his humour, which has opened many doors and eased many difficult negotiations. His humour has enabled him to make many friends and allies from all walks of life, which in turn has helped him to open new doors and contributed to his significant life achievements.

Larry’s lifelong selflessness and dedication is evidenced by his outstanding legacy of tireless work for community in western Victoria, within ACCOs, within the Victorian Public Service, and also in a range of advisory positions making a significant contribution for community.