Australia’s First Aboriginal MP Stuns Parliament With Moving Speech

She first made history in 2003 when she became the first indigenous MP elected to the parliament of New South Wales.

Linda Burney made history as she became the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the Australian parliament in July.

Her maiden speech this week was equally remarkable.

Burney opened her address in her native language while donning a symbolic kangaroo-skin cloak, featuring her clan’s as well as her personal totems.

She invited fellow Wiradjuri woman, Lynette Riley, to sing a traditional song from the gallery.

 “I was born at a time when the Australian government knew how how many sheep there were but not how many Aboriginal people," Burney, a former schoolteacher, told the House.

"I was 10 years old before the '67 referendum fixed that. The first decade of my life was spent as a non-citizen."

Burney reflected on the indigenous community’s journey in Australia’s modern history. She talked about the Rudd Labor government’s February 2008 apology to the country’s Indigenous peoples but said more needed to be done to help them.

"Recognition of first people in our nation's constitution is the next step in the path we are walking towards a country that can look itself in the eye knowing that we have come of age," she added.

The new MP vowed to he promised to reduce the rate of juvenile imprisonment, end domestic violence and improve the education system. She also promised to “bring the fighting Wiradjuri spirit into” the House.

The first time Burney made history was in 2003 when she became the first indigenous MP elected to the parliament of New South Wales.

Towards the end of her speech, she encouraged young Aboriginal members with the following message:

“If I can stand in this place, so can they – never let anyone tell you, you are limited by anything.”
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