Human on the Inside with Minus18’s Adrian Murdoch


5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills are everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators, and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies, and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Adrian, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight! 

You’re the Partnerships & Campaigns Lead at Minus18 – Australia’s youth driven foundation for LGBTQIA+ youth leading change, building social inclusion and advocating for an Australia free of homophobia and transphobia.

In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your role entail?

Minus18 is Australia’s charity for LGBTQIA+ young people, we deliver free events across the country for queer youth aged 12-19, host workshops in schools and pride groups, as well as champion inclusion campaigns such as IDAHOBIT, Wear it Purple Day & Trans Awareness Week.

So for my role, it’s about how we can keep those programs free for LGBTQIA+ young people every year (we’re talking about thousands of attendees yearly!), deliver those workshops free for Regional & Rural communities, and create meaningful change through those campaigns across the year.

You’ve been with Minus18 for 5 years now (starting as Marketing Coordinator & progressing through the ranks ever since) and prior to your time with the Foundation, enjoyed an eclectic career across retail and the Arts with tenures at Cotton On Group, Midsumma Festival, Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Loud Days and General Pants Co. You’ve also clocked up an impressive number of Accolades for your work including, but not limited to inclusion in OFA’s 30 Under 30 (2020), a National Fellowship (2020) & Australian Progress – Campaigns Fellowship (2021)!

How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

When I reflect on my experiences, it appears that the ones which initially seemed to be detours, actually turned out as powerful signposts for passion or purpose. My experience in retail/visual merchandising really shaped my passion for people and storytelling, which then through experiences with volunteering at Midsumma and Melbourne Queer Film Festival, led me to finding purpose in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.

When I started at Minus18 (as a volunteer doing social media), it felt like a culmination of all prior experiences. I had just turned 25, feeling as though I’d never find my calling, but that volunteering (while finishing a Marketing Degree) led me to the role I have today at Minus18, which not only fulfils me as an individual, but a space in which I know can propel positive change and impact on a national scale. 

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

I’ve had an interesting relationship with personal education, which coming out of High School assumed would give me direction and drive – but it was quite the opposite. I quickly felt lost and disconnected studying a Bachelor of Business – Human Resources & Events Management. I deferred for a year, but that quickly became a five year hiatus, where I worked full time as a Visual Merchandiser across two retail fashion brands. In that time, I realised my interest in understanding what drives people; from their purchasing to their decision-making, which led me to go back to school and study Marketing at RMIT.

Going back to Uni in my mid-twenties, I enjoyed the experience so much more, as I felt motivated and aligned with my long term vision. This increased even more once I interned at Loud Days Agency, then the following year Minus18, where I could apply what I was learning. My degree aligned strongly with my first full time role at Minus18, as the Marketing lead, but as Partnerships & Campaigns lead it’s not as relevant – but definitely helps in terms of being business-minded and a storyteller.

Since then, I’ve found great value working with organisations like Australian Progress, who have helped to provide further professional development opportunities such as the Australian Fellowship, which trains and empower advocates, campaigners, organisers and change makers in the social change and civil society sector. Furthermore, I undertook a Campaigns Fellowship, which really shaped my approach to language and messaging for campaigns such as IDAHOBIT, driven by Minus18.

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 15-year-old self it would be …

That every decision doesn’t have to be the ‘right’ one, but making one is what is important – don’t stress about making a mistake, make them and learn from it.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities, and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and/or value of human skills in the work/workplaces you’re involved with right now?

There is such a rich resource of lived experience within the LGBTQIA+ community, which goes beyond diverse identities, but the different paths and communities we represent. The lens of intersectionality is an important one to continue shaping progress, so we can ensure that equality doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait/personal superpower?

My capacity to think big picture has really taken me far, but to do so with an attention to detail which couples with the vision – I’ve learned over time this may be part of another human skill (no spoilers – see next question!).

And on the flip side, what’s one human/‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?

It has taken me a few years to feel aligned internally, but as someone who has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I’ve taken what initially felt like a barrier, to now being one of my strengths, when appropriately managed and communicated. Through openly sharing this with my manager, I’ve been able to understand the behaviours that aren’t conducive to our organisational flow, and where others (hyper focusing, creativity) can thrive with the right support and boundaries. 

It has been important for me to remain self aware about my momentum and hyperfocus, not derailing the flow of a larger team or project, or ensuring I’m not exerting energy at my own individual expense. I’ve been very fortunate to have a supportive manager and team, who are welcoming and open about discussing challenges and roadblocks.

If you could share one piece of career advice with tertiary graduates, or other individuals keen to work at an organisation like Minus18, what would it be?

If you’re passionate about a community sector, volunteering is such an essential way to build networks, gain experiences and understand how they work. It’s enlightening, but also helps to drive impact – everyone wins!

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

I’d say the passion or lived connection, similar to the above question. Meeting someone who has volunteered, or worked in a similar space to ours (for any community organisation), is so instrumental to ensuring that lived experience ensures an understanding of the true needs of the community.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” What’s next on your #learning agenda?

This is such a fantastic quote, something which really resonates with me. Education is so important within the LGBTQIA+ community, so that is always ensuring the different identities of our community are heard and amplified, such as the Intersex and Gender Diverse community, who need our help to ensure laws, policy and workplaces continue to be inclusive.