• Colin Rogan is passionate about creating employment opportunities for Indigenous youth. (NITV)Source: NITV
A youth detainee-turned military man, Colin Rogan is using his experiences to start a business and steer young people in the right direction.
Ella Archibald-Binge

The Point
18 Apr 2017 - 3:37 PM  UPDATED 18 Apr 2017 - 6:53 PM

As a teenager, a career in business was the last thing on Colin Rogan's mind. 

Growing up in Darwin, he got "into a little bit of trouble" and wound up in the Northern Territory's now-infamous Don Dale youth detention centre. 

"I didn't really think too far ahead, didn't have the opportunity to go and work in industry and have somebody in my ear in a good working environment," he recalls. 

At 25, Colin joined the military, which helped get his life back on track. 

After a number of tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, he retired from the military in 2009, and turned his mind to business - which, according to Colin, is "the biggest thing in Australia at the moment for Indigenous economic advancement". 

Colin says his military training put him in good stead to enter the business world. 

"The military was certainly one that helped me on the straight and narrow, (and I) used that to move into business by utilising the various aspects that I learnt within the military – basic numeracy and literacy skills, which a lot of kids don’t get especially if they’re coming from the community… and then also the discipline side."

Late last year he teamed up with Harry Maschke, the owner of Darwin company Action Sheet Metal, who was looking for an Indigenous business to take over production of its thermo-grade cushion head boxes, an air condition ducting system set to roll out across the Territory. 

Colin launched Irranda Holdings in September 2016, support by the Northern Territory's Indigenous Business Development Program. 

As managing director of Irranda Holdings, the 39-year-old is employed by Action Sheet Metal, learning about the industry while his business is in the start-up phase. 

Over the coming years, the Arrente man hopes to build up the company's Aboriginal workforce, with a view to manufacture and supply air conditioner ducting systems to large-scale developments across the Territory under the federal government's Indigenous Procurement Policy.  

Alongside Action Sheet Metal, the business provides work experience to local Indigenous students.

Colin is also working with local youth diversionary programs to explore work experience and employment pathways, and urges other businesses to do the same. 

"It's giving you the opportunity to get into their ear while they're still in that young tender age, and potentially getting coaxed in the wrong direction... and at the same time develop that youth before they join the workforce," he says.  

As northern Australia continues to develop, Colin believes Irranda Holdings is in the hot seat, and has issued an invitation to all levels of government:

"Come out and visit the business, look at what we have here to offer... we've got a new product, we can provide for the community, we can provide for the Northern Territory economy. So here I am waiting, Irranda Holdings Pty Ltd, Indigenous business, come and visit me."