NACCHO congratulates Nova Peris: the first Aboriginal woman elected to Australia’s Federal parliament.

Nova 2 Pic

The chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed today congratulated  the new senator for the NT Nova Peris who has become the first Aboriginal woman to win a seat in Australia’s Parliament.

Whilst this news had hardly any coverage here in Australia there was extensive coverage internationally

Here are two of those reports

SYDNEY (AFP) – Former Olympian Nova Peris has become the first Aboriginal woman elected to Australia’s national parliament, a welcome achievement for the centre-left Labor Party which lost power in the polls.

Employment and workplace relations minister Bill Shorten, who is considered the frontrunner to become Labor’s next leader, said despite the loss, there had been a range of good candidates elected to serve, including Peris.

“That’s a good accomplishment,” he said Sunday of her election to represent the Northern Territory in the Senate. “And it backs up our accomplishment in terms of jobs for indigenous Australians.”

Olympian Peris won gold in field hockey at the 1996 Atlanta Games before switching to athletics to win gold in the 200m and 4x100m relay at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

Her pre-selection ruffled feathers though, with one conservative Aboriginal politician saying Labor had been shamed into pre-selecting an indigenous candidate and compared the politically inexperienced Peris to a “maid” inside Labor’s house.

Others were angered that her pre-selection bumped out Labor’s long-serving Northern Territory Senator Trish Crossin.

In her victory speech on Saturday, Darwin-born-and-raised Peris said that federal politics had the same cruelness of elite sport and admitted she had thought “long and hard” about whether to enter the arena.

“I thought: ‘Can I do it?'” she told supporters on Saturday night.

“Sometimes in life you’ve got to back yourself and I’ve got a bit of a history of backing myself with my sporting career.”

Peris, who identifies with the Kiga People of the East Kimberley, Yawuru People of the West Kimberley (Broome) and Muran People of West Arnhem land in the Northern Territory, is set to be sworn in as a senator at the next sittings in Canberra.

Aboriginal woman’s Aussie Senate bid brings abuse

VIEW story here From the Washington Post

Facing the prospect of becoming the first Aboriginal woman to win a seat in Australia’s Parliament, Nova Peris said Sunday that she was targeted during her campaign by the worst onslaught of racial abuse she had ever endured.

After then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard hand-picked Peris in January to head the center-left Labor Party’s Senate ticket in the Northern Territory _ an almost unbeatable position that virtually assured her place in Australian political history _ she was bombarded with hate letters and emails that were so extreme she passed them to police.

“It’s not a nice feeling to be judged and looked down upon because of the color of your skin,” Peris said Sunday. “I had a string of letters and emails sent to me and they were horrific. And my husband was really, really upset.”

“They were pretty nasty. The worst I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said, declining to go into details.

But the threats did not deter her, and the 1996 Olympic gold medalist hockey player contested the Senate seat in elections Saturday. She appeared comfortably ahead in vote counting Sunday, but was not yet ready to claim victory.

“It’s like waiting for the result of a photo finish,” said Peris, comparing her anxious wait for the count to be finalized to her days as a world-class sprinter.

Aborigines are a minority of only 600,000 in Australia’s population of 23 million. The lack of Aboriginal representation in Parliament is a growing embarrassment for the leaders of major political parties.

No Aborigine had sat in Parliament before Neville Bonner arrived in 1971. The conservative Liberal Party senator, who had little formal education, was the only Aborigine in Parliament for the next 12 years before he was voted out.

In 1999, Aden Ridgeway, a senator from the minor Australian Democrats party, became the second Aborigine in Parliament, lasting for a single six-year term.

Liberal Ken Wyatt next won a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010, although a constituent later wrote to complain that he had not advertised his Aboriginality in the campaign. The constituent said he would not have voted for Wyatt if he had known.

Wyatt was re-elected Saturday to a second three-year term in his Western Australia state electorate, with an increased majority.

Adam Giles became the chief minister of Peris’ home state last year, and became the first Aboriginal head of a government.

Aborigines are the poorest ethnic group in Australia, suffer poor health and lag behind in education. They die years younger than other Australians on average and are far more likely to be imprisoned.

Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott has promised to work for a week each year as the nation’s leader in an Outback Aboriginal settlement to draw attention to indigenous struggles. He failed last year in a bid to recruit an Aboriginal woman lawmaker from the Northern Territory government to contest a federal seat.

Peris, a 41-year-old who competed in two Olympics _ as a hockey player in 1996 and as a sprinter in 2000 _ said she experienced racism throughout her sporting career. But the racism was worse in Australia than when she traveled internationally to compete.

She said she was pleased, however, that Australia’s major sporting bodies no longer tolerate racism of competitors or spectators.

“Racism is just ignorance,” she said. “Australia certainly has come a long way when you look at the reforms that have happened in the highest levels of sports. There’s no place for racism.”

“We’re talking about human beings, and it’s all about how we contribute to society and what are we doing today to make Australia a better place for the kids,” she said