Nyaningu (Nyani) Thomas’ childhood was spent living in Aboriginal communities across Australia, which he says helped set the scene for his desire to work for his own community.
‘My parents Andrew and Monica, were both very involved in Aboriginal affairs in Government and we moved around a lot as kids,’ he says. ‘When I was a toddler we lived in Mutitjulu in the Northern Territory and then we moved to Kununarra in the Kimberley, and my Dad was also involved in managing Yalata on South Australia’s West Coast.’
Between moves Nyani always returned to Port Augusta, which is where many of his family members live and was a home base until he relocated to Adelaide for high school. Nyani says culture was always present during his upbringing and is always at the forefront of his mind in his current career.
Nyani’s early insight into the diversity of Aboriginal cultures and communities inspired him to nominate for the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation Board, which he was elected onto in February, and is now Vice Chairperson.
‘I’ve got some experience in working with, and empowering, Aboriginal boards and the experience extends to works in contract management, procurement and finance,’ Nyani says. ‘It really appeals to me to be able to use that skillset to benefit my own community. I’ve gradually been getting more and more exposure to some of the ways KAC works.’
Nyani’s first role with KAC began 18 months ago, when he joined the Board of the Kokatha Charitable Trust. ‘I want to see the right management and the right outcomes,’ he says. ‘I find myself having a passion to drive that and at the root of that drive is my desire to ensure the community members get what they need and deserve.’
The 34-year-old draws inspiration from his parents’ lifetime of work to empower Aboriginal communities and also the Elders who served as his mentors. ‘I know I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’m really excited to be able to use my skills to help provide some structure and to be inclusive,’ says Nyani. ‘I’m very humbled that the other board members have faith in me and I’m looking forward to helping achieve some great things for KAC.’