Khatija Thomas’ family moved to Adelaide from Port Augusta when she was seven, in seek of better work and education opportunities. The smaller community would always remain Ms Thomas’ true home, but she developed a strong career focus from a young age.
“As a child, when people asked what job I wanted to do I used to say I wanted to be a judge,” Ms Thomas said.
“Pretty much everything I did during my childhood was to get into law school. I chose Flinders because you could go into law direct from high school, and all I wanted to do was become a lawyer.
“When I started at Flinders, the Yunggorendi unit was very supportive and the staff were inspirational – I decided I wanted to be just like them!”
Ms Thomas was always aware of the injustices faced by Aboriginal people, but it was not until she volunteered for a year on the legal team seeking land rights for Indigenous Cambodians that she really understood the commonalities of Indigenous people struggling for justice around the world.
Upon her return, she worked on Australian native title cases before being appointed as South Australia’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement in 2011.
Ms Thomas spent four years raising the profile of Aboriginal people and issues in South Australia, and improving connections between Aboriginal and non- Indigenous people before stepping down in 2015, carving out an opportunity to ponder how she can best deploy her passion and talents next.
“Using the law as a tool to aid social transformation is the way I can make a contribution to my community. It fits my personality and it fits my values,” Ms Thomas said.