Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM is the CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and a fierce advocate for the rights of people seeking asylum, refugees, and Indigenous Australians. Kon is also a human rights lawyer, social worker, Board Member for Children’s Ground, philanthropist, masseur, and cooking enthusiast.
Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM is the CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Kon is proudly Greek, growing up in a working-class family in a small country town in Victoria. Kon’s personal experience of racism and witnessing the exploitation of his parents in factories, as well as his grandparents’ experience as refugees who fled the Pontian genocide in Anatolia, planted the seeds for his passion for human rights.
Inspired by the struggles of his parents and his own childhood experiences of racism, Kon founded the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) at 28. Then a TAFE teacher, Kon discovered that people seeking asylum were living in the community with no basic support. This led to the creation of a student-run and community-funded food bank, launched from a tiny shop in Footscray with only a few boxes of food. That same year, the ASRC was established on 8 June, 2001.
From humble beginnings, the ASRC today has grown into both a place and a movement. It is the largest independent human rights organisation in Australia and has supported and empowered over 12,000 people seeking asylum and refugees in the last 15 years.
Kon has been recognised as an Australian of the Year (Victoria) finalist in 2007, was invited to participate in the 2020 Summit in 2008, was voted one of Australia’s 20 Unsung Heroes as part of the launch of the new Portrait Gallery in Canberra in 2008, and was voted as one of Melbourne’s 100 most influential people in The Age Melbourne Magazine. Kon was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2010 and an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2011. In 2012, he was a finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s prestigious Human Rights Medal. Most recently, he has been awarded the City of Maribyrnong Citizen of the Year 2016 and the La Trobe University Young Achiever Award 2016.
Over his lifetime, Kon has completed six degrees including a Bachelor of Law and a Masters of Business Administration. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, particularly Greek cuisine, and often hosts dinners to fundraise for other causes, including women affected by domestic violence. Kon also volunteers his time as a Board member of Children’s Ground, an organisation that supports Indigenous children and runs a small philanthropic trust that focuses on women and Indigenous rights.