Welcoming Three New Trailblazing Board Members

Welcoming Three New Trailblazing Board Members

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) is honoured to welcome three new Board members, Amara Barnes, Thomas Mayo and Nicole Abadee. 

Amara, Thomas and Nicole will be joining a collection of incredible current ILF Board members, including Natalie Ahmat (Co-Chair), Jacqui Payne (Co-Chair), Leitha Assan, Louise Stark, Alicia Stewart and Gavin Williams.

These new leaders in their respective fields will bring a range of different knowledge to the work of the ILF. 

Amara Barnes

Amara is a proud Wiradyuri yinaa (woman) from Wambuul bila (Macquarie River) Country in Central West NSW. 

For the past decade Amara has worked across multiple sectors and industries, including in media, tertiary, community, non-profit and private organisations, towards meaningful and positive outcomes for First Nations peoples. 

Amara is an advocate for First Nations self-determination, through Nation re-building, including the preservation and practice of languages and cultures. She is passionate about re-learning Wiradyuri language and passing it on to her gudha-galang (children).

“Literacy is essential to how we understand the world around us and how we make sense of our place within it. Literacy offers freedom for us to explore possibilities, opportunities, fantasies and facts. It enables and hones individual thinking, self awareness and understanding. Literacy is fundamental to ensuring equitable access, participation and contribution within our communities,” says Amara.

Amara has been a supporter of the ILF for many years and believes in ILF’s Community-led approach to its programs. “I feel privileged to work with the ILF and contribute to the impact, success and growth of the organisation.”

When asked what it means to her to be involved in an organisation that publishes books in First Languages, Amara explains that it is deeply important to her. 

“First Languages are beautifully layered and complex and add so much depth to communicating. 

“Providing access for children to books in their languages allows them to explore, practice and embed their language proficiency, protecting our languages for generations to come.” 

“For children, seeing their languages, stories and likeness in books is critical to self-affirmation, to ensure that our young ones grow strong and confident within their cultural identities,” says Amara.

Thomas Mayo

Thomas Mayo is a Kaurareg Aboriginal, and Kulkalgal, Erubamle Torres Strait Islander man. He is a best selling author and Assistant National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. 

Thomas has long advocated for social justice issues, including Indigenous and asylum seekers rights. 

“Literacy is a great passion of mine, as is the struggle for empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation does both,” says Thomas. 

Thomas is the proud author of four books, three of which are about the Uluru Statement from the Heart. In his fourth book, Dear Son, Thomas invited 12 contributors to write a letter to their son, father or nephew, showcasing heartfelt stories about life, masculinity, love, culture and racism.

His book Voice to Parliament written with Kerry O’Brien and Cathy Wilcox expresses to readers all there is to know about the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This book fundraised generous donations of royalties for the ILF.

Thomas explains that "it would mean the world to a child, who rarely hears or sees their language written, to receive a story they love in language. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Literacy is important, and so is culture. When we bring them together, we are giving children the foundations for a bright future."

Thomas’ experience working in Indigenous rights in many different ways will be key to the ongoing work of the ILF in supporting First Nations literacy and languages.

“I look forward to working with the board and the team in our communities to continue the important work the foundation does,” says Thomas. 

Nicole Abadee

Nicole Abadee was a barrister and then legal academic for 20 years, with a background in International Law and Human Rights Law. Nicole has worked in the book industry, working as a senior editor at Penguin Random House. She is currently the books writer for Good Weekend Magazine as well as a festival moderator, interviewing writers at writers’ festivals and Australian literary events. 

Nicole was heavily involved in the Yes Campaign for the 2023 Referendum for a First Nations Voice to Parliament, and co-founded Writers for the Voice, an advocacy group with over 700 members. 

The ILF is a national charity of the Australian Book Industry, and the work done in collaboration with Book Industry representatives is absolutely foundational to ILF’s Community Publishing program, among other work that the ILF does. 

“I have long admired and regularly supported the work of the ILF, providing books in English and First Languages and working with remote Indigenous Communities to create and publish their own stories,” says Nicole. 

Nicole strongly believes that every child should have access to books that represent their culture and language. 

“If you can read, you can learn, and participate fully in all that society has to offer. If you can’t, some doors will always be closed to you, depriving you of opportunities and advantages you might otherwise have. 

“Obviously, you can’t learn to read if you don’t have ready access to books.”

Nicole has seen the growth of the ILF in the past decade, being involved with the organisation for the first time in 2013. She is excited to cement her relationship with the ILF through her involvement in the Board. 

“When the opportunity came up to apply for the ILF Board role it just seemed like the perfect fit for me – I have a background in human rights and international law before I moved into the book industry.”

“I am passionate about books and reading and about equality of opportunity,” says Nicole. 


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Written by Ella Schofield

  • Posted 14 February, 2024

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