The first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives, Linda Burney, has slammed calls for the watering down of the Racial Discrimination Act during her maiden speech.
The usual rules of the Lower House were relaxed to allow Wiradjuri woman Lynette Riley to sing the Labor MP into the house from the public gallery.
“I will bring the fighting Wiradjuri spirit into this place,” Ms Burney said.
She also wore a cloak made by Ms Riley featuring her totems and the story of her life.
The former school teacher made history in 2003 after winning a seat in the New South Wales election, becoming the state’s first Indigenous MP.
She told the chamber Coalition backbench senators’ calls to amend the Racial Discrimination Act demonstrated a “lack of sincerity” that voters had decried.
“Too often these calls to amend the Racial Discrimination Act come from those from whom this kind of discrimination is totally alien,” she said.
“Well I can tell them it’s hurtful.
“And to me, and many people in this chamber and the galleries today, it is not alien.”
But she said much more needed to be done to help Indigenous people,” she said.
“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,” Ms Burney said.
“Perhaps another great act of honesty and healing will be a permanent remembering of those Frontier Wars, just down the road at our National War Memorial.
“The chamber I have come from in New South Wales proudly hang the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags.
“Symbolism is important.
“I know symmetry’s important in this place, but perhaps we could think that once we get constitutional recognition we could add another two flags to this chamber coloured red, gold, black, white, green and blue — the colours and the flags of the two first peoples of this nation.”
Ms Burney also thanked her constituents and said she was proud of the cultural diversity of her seat of Barton.
“It is one of the greatest ironies that the seat named after the architect of the White Australia Policy has become one of the most multicultural in the country,” she said.