“Madam Speaker, I am young, I am gay, I am black, a true blue Territorian,” were among the stirring words that opened the 13th Parliament of the Northern Territory.
Newly elected member for Namatjira Chansey Paech told the Parliament he was proud of who he was, and that he wore his various labels with pride.
“I am a Centralian man, I am the nation’s first openly gay, Indigenous parliamentarian,” Mr Paech said.
“I am eternally proud of who I am and where I come from, I own it and wear it with pride.”
— Chansey Paech MLA (@CPaech) October 18, 2016
The parliamentarian also used his first speech to call for marriage equality, and said he represented the diversity that existed in the Territory.
Mr Paech said he would push for better roads in the bush and wanted the full economic potential of Aboriginal communities to be realised.
New leader apologies for the CLP’s failings
The day of maiden speeches was also an opportunity for the besieged Country Liberals party, who suffered a landslide defeat in the 2016 election, to try and start anew.
CLP leader and Member for Daly Gary Higgins told Parliament that the former government had let down Territorians, and put the party’s name into disrepute in the Northern Territory and “to and extent”, Australia wide.
“Where there should have been loyalty, there was division and disunity. For that, I am sorry,” Mr Higgins said.
Mr Higgins said positive initiatives made while his party was in power were overshadowed by internal division and deceit.
“In short much of the good stuff we did was overshadowed by, and I used this term loosely, distractions,” Mr Higgins said, citing insider leaks to media and a raft of leadership coups.
“The interests of the voters were put on the shelf,” he said.
Mr Higgins acknowledged the extent of CLP’s defeat, citing the 16 seats the party held after the 2012 election compared to just two now.
New members call for closing the gap
Two new members who both swept to shock victory used their speeches to address racial inequality.
Independent Member of Nhulunbuy Yingiya Mark Guyula, who narrowly defeated Labor’s Lynne Walker, said he had not wanted to become a politician but it was the only way to get Yolngu law officially recognised.
He told Parliament that Yolngu people had petitioned for recognition of their traditional law for years, and called for a treaty.
“The only way to close this is with policies of self determination, self management, and self governance, ultimately treaty,” Mr Guyula said.
He said family violence, a lack of training for young people on-country, and not enough bilingual schools had increased the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Member for Katherine Sandra Nelson said housing was the biggest issue in her seat, and that the lack of housing was the foundation for other problems.
– Stephanie Zillman