Mario Gordon

"When you feel you are in the right place for you to thrive, you take comfort knowing you have made the right decision for yourself".


Mario Gordon

Country of Origin: Panama.

State of Residency: VIC. Favourite place in Australia: Tasmania. Upon arrival: Surprised by the fact that I was able to wake up everyday in this amazing country.

 By Trini Abascal

Mario Gordon is a freelancer graphic designer and street photographer. He worked at YGAP (a non-profit that helps to impact positivelyentrepreneurs around the world) as Creative Director during their 2016 polished man campaign. Mario's creative skills has seen him perform as deejay, percussionist and radio show production. He has played with Latin Grammy award winning groups during their Australian tours. He is always looking for ways to give back to the community so he volunteers regularly with non-profit start ups. 

Tell us your story


A childhood friend recently mentioned that when I was eight years old I pointed to Australia on the world map and said: “this is the place I will explore when I grow up”. As destiny would have it, years later some family members moved to Sydney and I had the opportunity to visit them on a holiday in 2000. Early on I fell in love with Australia; I knew I had found a new home. Back then immigration laws were more flexible and I was able to apply for a resident visa while I was on holiday. I barely spoke English so I had to take jobs not many would take. A challenging job I took was as carer of handicapped children. This was difficult as these kids could be violent with challenging behaviours. During that time I focused on my music and was able to become a well-known percussionist in the electronic music scene in Sydney. I had the opportunity to play at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Festival, New Year Eve parties at Luna Park and Harbour Bridge amongst others. I even had the golden opportunity to play with two international Grammy award winners Los Amigos Invisibles and Aterciopelados. I was also the body double for Jamie Fox in Stealth and an extra for the Matrix Reloaded movie filmed in Sydney. 

Around 2005 I was visiting Canberra once a month for music gigs. I figured I should move there for few months to explore opportunities. Those months turned into 8 wonderful years. I will be forever grateful to Frank Madrid as he opened the doors for me. He gave me my first opportunity there and has always looked after me since. I worked for FAMA as Latin American talent promoter bringing bands like Fulanito, Wilson Saoco and Tito Puente Jr. among others. I also worked as graphic design for the arts industry, government and private sector. Later I was Creative Director of a dance studio with whom we produced a musical of Ruben Blades famous song Pedro Navaja amongst other events.

In 2013 I did a soul searching trip for 18 months. I visited some countries in America and returned to Panama to work as graphic designer helping startup businesses. Upon my return to Australia, I decided to move to the city I consider is a hot spot for creativity and innovation – Melbourne. I updated my knowledge on the latest industry trends studying full-time graphic design and was lucky enough to volunteer and then work for YGAP as Creative Director. With YGAP I had the opportunity to travel to Africa. At the moment I am back as freelancer, working hard to establish the Mario Gordon brand. Whenever possible I am still involved in the music scene.

Mario playing at the NYE Sydney Celebrations in 2002. Photo by Mark Matthews

Mario playing at the NYE Sydney Celebrations in 2002. Photo by Mark Matthews


Unplanned move - Since my holiday turned into the start of my migration journey, it was a challenging start as I was not really prepared for my new life. Migrating requires you to learn the language and of course the culture so that you can really thrive in the new environment. I ended up learning English here, mainly by watching movies with subtitles and encouraging myself to talk in English as much as I could. In hindsight, a bit of planning and extra time to make the move would have been beneficial.

Not having it all - Family and friends are irreplaceable and very important to one’s life, you wish you could take them with you wherever life takes you. But, when you find a place far away from your home country and you feel you are in the right place for you to thrive, you take comfort knowing you have made the right decision for yourself. 

Being an entrepreneur - Having enough money is a challenge for everyone, even more so for new migrants. When opening a business, you know you will struggle at the beginning. I have been blessed with a set of skills that have helped me to make the journey less stressful. I believe a strong grit makes the difference when facing challenges.


Creative out of necessity - In the neighborhood where I grew up (in Panama) we had to be creative out of necessity to survive. That experience of living with less developed in me the ability to live simplistically. This has enabled me to find and create opportunities for myself and always coming back to the core needs to experience happiness in life. On contrary, in Australia essential needs are provided to high standards; so this allows Australians to thrive in a supportive environment.

Only geography separates us - At the end of the day, we are all humans. We all enjoy food, music, being in the company of friends and expressing love to our family. I would like to stop talking about the insignificant differences between Latin Americans and Australians. The instruments we use are different but the essence is the same. 

Piece of advice

Be prepared - Be mentally prepared for the emotional, financial and spiritual challenges that come with a change in environment. Engage with your local community, study and network socially and professionally.

Embrace your culture -  It is up to us how we bring our culture into the context of how we live in Australia. I express my roots by sharing my Latin American music and my art. In Australia is common that people ask you where you come from; so be proud of your heritage and don't try to detach yourself from it.

Know your true self  - The identity of a person projected to the world is an individual with ambitions, fears and motivation, so measuring success can be difficult as it is different to each and every individual. Being a Latino abroad can be faced with its challenges at times; however, knowing yourself and your feelings can get you the reward you are seeking.

Share your journey -  I’m passionate about helping people in transitioning to find a life of enjoyment in Australia. I’ve been sharing my journey with others to help them. I find this is a great way to have a positive impact on people’s journeys. 

Mario took this for photo for YGAP while on assignment in Kenya

Mario took this for photo for YGAP while on assignment in Kenya

In the next few years... 

Mario sees himself continuing to work hard to find fulfilment in the present. He looks for growth in the now and enjoying the present moment. He tries not to worry about the future as he knows life constantly changes by situations outside his control. In the next few years he is looking forward to consolidate his business and get recognition in the graphic design industry in Australia. If you wish to contact Mario email us at