Celebrating NAIDOC Week 2018: Meet Nikki Upton

NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  This year’s theme ‘Because of her, we can’ celebrates the essential role that women have played, and continue to play, as active and significant role models in the community.

This year’s theme resonates with everything we support here at Magnetic People.  We are passionate about driving diversity in the workplace, be it cultural or gender diversity.   We know that there are strong commercial reasons for diversity, and being a team of women ourselves we’ve seen first-hand how supporting women to succeed has positive impacts not only on business, but broader society.

Continuing our NAIDOC interview series, we spoke with friend of Magnetic People, Nikki Upton.  Nikki is another strong Aboriginal woman who embodies the ‘Because of her, we can’ spirit.

Nikki is a proud Njamal woman, who was born in Karratha and grew up in Dampier.  Her spirit and knowledge of her family’s traditions, culture, identity and customs were passed onto her from her mother and grandmother.  This passing of wisdom is an activity she truly cherishes as she loves gaining new knowledge and increasing her understanding of her people’s history.

Nikki started her career as a trainee deckhand in Dampier, where she worked hard to build her credibility with her crews, to learn and to listen.  As a result of her commitment to her personal development, Nikki was successful in obtaining a permanent position on the Tugs. She’s currently expanding her skill set working on the line boats, completing further training and working towards her Master Five.

Ports and shipping remains one of the most male-dominated industries in the world.  Nikki aspires to break down the gender bias in ports by becoming a Master and driving boats, an appointment she seeks on the basis of her merit and achievements.  She’s developed a clear career plan and aims to start driving the line boats after the completion of her Master Five, working her way to becoming a Tug driver.  Her drive comes from a love of the water, a love she has built her career on.

So, what does she love about her job?

“There is not one day where I wake up and don’t want to go to work.  I love that I get to go on the water every day, and that I can have a job where I grew up. It’s definitely helped being surrounded by a supportive crew of guys that are always willing to lend me a hand. I enjoy learning new things, and I’m always learning in my job and I really embrace my training.  After all, this is a job I can take anywhere in the world, and that’s pretty exciting.”

What advice would she give to young Aboriginal women to help them achieve their dreams? 

“If you want it, chase after it, and sometimes it’s not going to be easy. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and give everything a go at least once. Don’t be scared of failure, if you do fail take a step back and learn from it and ask yourself ‘what can I do better next time’.”

Who has been your mentor?

“My nana Mavis Westerman and my parents Lynette and Gary Upton. My nana grew up in real hardship and is the most sweetest soul. Not being able to get a proper education herself, she has always taught her kids the importance of good education, work ethic and the importance of family. Something that has been handed down through my mum to my brother and I.”

“Mum and Dad have taught me to never have an ‘I can’t’ attitude towards anything, they’ve both always supported me in everything that I do. Mum has worked in the mining industry for a long time and it’s always been instilled in me to stand your ground and that it doesn’t matter if you’re working in a male dominated industry, you’ll be respected for the work you do.”

What does this year’s NAIDOC theme mean to you, ‘Because of Her We Can?’

“I immediately think of strong inspiring indigenous women, like my three aunties and especially my nana and my mum. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by all of these women who inspire me every day with their hard work and dedication. They have taught me that anything is possible, to stand up for what I believe in and to always give everything 100%.”

We’re excited to see where Nikki’s career takes her, and thank her for being an inspiration to all women.