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Indigenous candidates in record numbers for July 2 poll

Linda Burney rates her chances of picking up Barton.

As one of a record number of Indigenous candidates in the July 2 federal poll, she says voters in the electorate are excited that they could make history. She says the prospect of becoming the first indigenous woman in the House of Representatives is not only important to her but also the ALP and the Australian community.

She says education and health care are the big election issues and Barton will lose out heavily on both if the Turnbull government is returned.

Burney has also called for indigenous Australians to be recognised in the Constitution and for conflicts between indigenous Australians and settlers to be recognised at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

“I’ve got a lot to offer,” she says. “I’ve got 13 years’ experience in the State Parliament, including a number of those as a minister, I’ve got a strong policy background and a strong sense of who I am as an Aboriginal person.

“And going into the federal arena will give me a chance to use those skills and pursue some things I’m passionate about including Constitutional recognition.

“Much of my life has been about the pursuit of truth telling. Part of truth telling for any nation is to acknowledge its history.

“Rightly so I’m incredibly proud of the way we observe Anzac Day and pay tribute to what that stands for, but part of truth telling is also recognising that there was much blood spilt on this country in every nation and every electorate and that the wars between the settlers and Aboriginal people need to be recognised as well.

“And one way of doing that is to have it recognised within the context of the War Memorial.”

Meanwhile, one of Joanna Lindgren’s earliest memories is of her great uncle, the late Neville Bonner, out on the political campaign trail using a loud hailer.

The man she affectionately refers to as “Uncle Neville” was the first indigenous member of the Australian parliament. When he took up his seat in the Senate in 1971, he led the way for others to follow.

Today, as Lindgren, a Liberal National Party Senator from Queensland, hits the political hustings herself ahead of the July 2 federal election, she says Bonner continues to be an inspiration.

“Uncle Neville in his first speech said, ‘First and foremost I am an Australian citizen,’” she says. “This too is how I see myself in the Senate.

“Uncle Neville sat in the old Parliament House, and I now sit in the new Parliament House, which to me signifies that he was a person for his time, so now I am for mine.

“I am not here to continue his work, because that has been done by others since he left the Senate in 1983. I am here to do the work of today.

“To many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders both young and old, Uncle Neville was a trail blazer. He was a smart man despite having little education. He loved people and people loved him. For many young people today, he is an inspiration. His story is a story of resilience and perseverance. This philosophy is what I believe every Australian should live by.”

Forty-five years after Bonner made history, a dozen indigenous candidates have so far entered the running in the coming federal election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this week that after the election the number of indigenous MPs in Federal Parliament could finally be in line with the share of the population.

Among those who have thrown their hats into the ring include Australia’s first indigenous frontbencher Ken Wyatt, who is the assistant health and aged care minister in the Turnbull government. He is seeking re-election to the WA seat of Hasluck.

Geoffrey Winters, an openly gay and indigenous lawyer, is contesting the seat of Sydney for the Liberals. The seat is currently held by deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek. Controversially, the Greens have preferenced Reverend Fred Niles’ Christian Democratic party in the seat, above Winters.

Kado Muir, a colourful dreadlocked anthropologist and artist, is standing for the Nationals in WA for the Senate.

The ‘father of reconciliation’, newly-appointed WA Labor senator Pat Dodson is seeking election to the Senate.

WA’s first female indigenous member of state parliament, Labor’s Carol Martin, is contesting the seat of Durack, the biggest electorate in the nation and currently held by the Liberals.

Human rights lawyer Tammy Solonec, is contesting the WA seat of Swan for Labor. She wants Australia Day scrapped in favour of a Wattle Day, to be celebrated in September as well as a new flag, national anthem and republic.

Barry Winmar, is contesting the WA seat of Canning, also for the ALP.

In the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy, a journalist and Yanyuwa woman, has stepped in to fill the Senate spot vacated by Labor’s Nova Peris. The Olympian, who became a Senator in 2013, was the first indigenous woman elected to federal parliament.

Tasmanian Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie, who is seeking re-election, also identifies as indigenous.

Queensland’s Lindgren, who is in sixth spot on the LNP Senate ticket in that State, says she welcomes the greater indigenous participation in politics.

“It is my dream that in the years to come many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will follow the same path as others before me have done and that one day this path will be seen as quite normal and even expected,” she says.

This election, Lindgren says the key issues are employment, support for small business and start-ups, budget repair, national security, health and education.

She also wants Australia’s Constitution amended “to recognise indigenous occupation of this land prior to the modern nation of Australia; and, second, to ensure that indigenous Australian history does not disappear into the rich blend of cultures that have arrived in the past 227 years”.

Across in WA and Nationals candidate Kado Muir, a Ngalia man, is hoping to become Australia’s first voice for the desert.

“I’m out of the desert,” he says. “I still live in Leonora on the edge of the desert. My country is in the Great Victoria Desert, so yeah, I’m a tribal man out of the bush, out of the desert, and as a personal journey going from the desert through the bush and the regional communities into the city.

“Playing on words I’m calling it the CBD campaign.”

Muir has been travelling vast distances campaigning in his push to get a better GST deal for WA.

“We’re not getting a fair share of the GST,” he says. “There are 12 Senators who were sitting in Canberra, a couple of who were actual ministers and they could not or would not advocate for the State in terms of getting better resourcing back to WA and our communities.”

He says indigenous issues close to his heart include a royal commission into indigenous suicides in Australia — “it’s an epidemic” — and better quality water supplies for remote communities.

Muir says he would also like to see WA’s royalties for regions program, where funds are put back into remote areas, picked up on a national level. It was the royalties for regions that convinced him to switch his allegiances from the Greens to the Nationals, he says.

“A lot of resources are taken from remote regions,” he says. “It’s about time those resources were redirected, or portions of it, were reinvested in these communities to strengthen them.”

Neither the campaign headquarters for the Labor Party or Greens returned calls or emails from the NIT for this report.

There's no guessing which way Kimberley Land Council chairman Anthony Watson will vote on July 2.
There’s no guessing which way Kimberley Land Council chairman Anthony Watson will vote on July 2.


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