Indigenous parliamentarians, federal and state: a quick guide

Updated 11 July 2017

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Hannah Gobbett
Politics and Public Administration Section

 

This Quick Guide provides information about Indigenous Australian federal and state parliamentarians, from the election of the first Indigenous Australian to the Federal Parliament—former senator Neville Bonner—until September 2016.

For the purposes of this Quick Guide, ‘Indigenous parliamentarian’ refers to a parliamentarian who identifies as Indigenous or as having Indigenous ancestry. This Quick Guide lists the name, party, dates in office, chamber, state/electorate and significant firsts.

The 45th Parliament currently includes five Indigenous parliamentarians—three senators and two members of the House of Representatives. Ken Wyatt AM, MP is the Member for Hasluck (WA) and Linda Burney, MP is the Member for Barton (NSW), while the Senate includes senators Patrick (Pat) Dodson (ALP), Jacqui Lambie (IND) and Malarndirri McCarthy (ALP).

This information is compiled from a range of sources including the Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook, The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, state parliaments, political websites and personal biographies. Where available, a hyperlink to biographies has been included.

The Parliamentary Library would appreciate receiving additional information or corrections that may assist in compiling future updates.

Abbreviations

AD Australian Democrats LA Legislative Assembly
ALP Australian Labor Party LC Legislative Council
CLP Country Liberal Party HA House of Assembly
IND Independent  
LIB Liberal Party of Australia The Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Queensland have unicameral parliaments.
NP National Party
PUP Palmer United Party  

Indigenous federal parliamentarians

  • Neville Bonner (Senate, Qld, LIB; IND) was the first Indigenous member of parliament in 1971.
  • Ken Wyatt (House of Representatives, WA, LIB) is the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives, elected in 2010. He is also the first Indigenous member of parliament to hold a ministerial position as the Assistant Minister for Health from 30 September 2015.
  • Linda Burney (House of Representatives, NSW, ALP) is the first Indigenous female member of the House of Representatives, elected in 2016. She was also the first and only Indigenous member of the New South Wales Parliament, having been elected in 2003.
  • Nova Peris, OAM (Senate, NT, ALP) was the first female Indigenous senator, serving from 2013 to 2016.
  • Joanna Lindgren (Senate, Qld, LIB), who served from 2015 to 2016, is the great-niece of Neville Bonner.
  • David Kennedy was the first Indigenous individual to be elected to both a state parliament and the Federal Parliament, having served as the ALP Member for Bendigo (1969–1972) prior to entering the Victorian Parliament in 1982 (MLA, ALP). However, his Indigenous heritage was not known when he entered both parliaments nor did he self-identify as Indigenous at that time.[1] For these reasons Neville Bonner is recorded as the first Indigenous federal parliamentarian.
  • Linda Burney and Malarndirri McCarthy are the first Indigenous women to be elected to both a state/territory parliament and the Federal Parliament. They served in the New South Wales and Northern Territory parliaments, respectively, prior to being elected to the Federal Parliament. For further information see the ‘Indigenous state parliamentarians’ section below.
Name Party First Chamber State or electorate From To
David Kennedy ALP   House Bendigo (Vic.) *07.06.1969 02.12.1972
Neville Bonner LIB; IND from Feb. 1983 Indigenous member of parliament Senate Queensland *11.06.1971 04.02.1983
Aden Ridgeway AD   Senate New South Wales 01.07.1999 30.06.2005
Kenneth (Ken) Wyatt LIB Indigenous member of the House of Representatives House Hasluck (WA)  21.08.2010 current
Nova Peris ALP Female Indigenous senator Senate Northern Territory 07.09.2013 09.05.2016
Jacqui Lambie PUP; IND from Nov. 2014   Senate Tasmania 01.07.2014 current
Joanna Lindgren LIB   Senate Queensland *21.05.2015 02.07.2016
Patrick (Pat) Dodson ALP   Senate Western Australia *28.04.2016 current
Linda Burney ALP Female Indigenous member of the House of Representatives House Barton (NSW) 02.07.2016 current
Malarndirri McCarthy ALP   Senate Northern Territory 02.07.2016 current

* Selected under Section 15 of the Australian Constitution in the Senate or at a by-election in the House of Representatives.

Source: compiled by the Parliamentary Library.

Indigenous state parliamentarians

  • Hyacinth Tungutalum (Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, CLP) was the first Indigenous person elected to any state/territory parliament, in October 1974.
  • Adam Giles (Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, CLP), was the first Indigenous head of government as the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 14 March 2013 to 27 August 2016.
  • Ernie Bridge (Western Australian Legislative Assembly, ALP; IND) was the first Indigenous Cabinet minister in any Australian government, as Minister for Water Resources, the North-West and Aboriginal Affairs, a position he held from July 1986 until February 1989.
  • Marion Scrymgour (Northern Territory Legislative Assembly) was the first female Indigenous minister in 2003; she was later appointed as the Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, becoming (at that time) the highest-ranked Indigenous parliamentarian in Australian history.
  • Cyril and Andrew Kennedy were the first brothers of Indigenous heritage to serve concurrently in any state parliament, having both served in the Victorian Parliament from 1982 until 1992.
  • John Ah Kit and his daughter Ngaree Ah Kit are the first Indigenous father and daughter to serve in any state parliament, having both been elected to the Northern Territory Parliament.

Key

Δ First Indigenous parliamentarian in that state

Name State Party Chamber From To
Linda BurneyΔ NSW ALP LA 22.03.2003 06.05.2016
Jai Rowell NSW LP LA 26.03.2011 current
Eric DeeralΔ Qld NP LA 07.12.1974 12.11.1977
Leeanne Enoch Qld ALP LA 31.01.2015 current
William (Billy) Gordon Qld ALP; IND from Mar. 2015 LA 31.01.2015 current
Cyril KennedyΔ Vic. ALP LC 05.05.1979 2.10.1992
David (Andrew) Kennedy Vic. ALP LA 03.04.1982
02.03.1985
01.03.1985
02.10.1992
Ernest (Ernie) BridgeΔ WA ALP; IND from Jul. 1996 LA 23.02.1980 10.02.2001
Carol Martin WA ALP LA 10.02.2001 09.03.2013
Benjamin (Ben) Wyatt WA ALP LA 11.03.2006 current
Josephine (Josie) Farrer WA ALP LA 09.03.2013 current
Hyacinth TungutalumΔ NT CLP LA 19.10.1974 12.08.1977
Neville Perkins NT ALP LA 13.08.1977 06.03.1981
Wesley Lanhupuy NT ALP LA 03.12.1983 25.08.1995
Stanley Tipiloura NT ALP LA 07.03.1987 20.09.1992
Maurice Rioli NT ALP LA 07.11.1992 17.08.2001
John Ah Kit NT ALP LA 07.10.1995 17.06.2005
Matthew Bonson NT ALP LA 18.08.2001 08.08.2008
Elliot McAdam NT ALP LA 18.08.2001 08.08.2008
Marion Scrymgour NT ALP; IND from June 2009; ALP from Aug. 2009 LA 18.08.2001 24.08.2012
Alison Anderson NT ALP; IND from Aug. 2009; CLP from Sept. 2011; PUP from Apr. 2014; IND from Nov. 2014 LA 08.06.2005 27.08.2016
Malarndirri McCarthy NT ALP LA 08.06.2005 24.08.2012
Karl Hampton NT ALP LA 23.09.2006 24.08.2012
Adam Giles NT CLP LA 09.08.2008 27.08.2016
Bess Price NT CLP LA 25.08.2012 27.08.2016
Francis Kurrupuwu NT CLP; PUP from Apr. 2014; CLP from Sept. 2014 LA 25.08.2012 27.08.2016
Larisa Lee NT CLP; PUP from May 2014; IND from Nov. 2014 LA 25.08.2012 27.08.2016
Kenneth (Ken) Vowles NT ALP LA 25.08.2012 current
Ngaree Ah Kit NT ALP LA 27.08.2016 current
Lawrence Costa NT ALP LA 27.08.2016 current
Yingiya Mark Guyula NT IND LA 27.08.2016 current
Chansey Paeche NT ALP LA 27.08.2016 current
Selena Uibo NT ALP LA 27.08.2016 current
Christopher (Chris) Bourke Δ ACT ALP LA 02.06.2011 current
Paul HarrissΔ Tas. IND
LIB
LC
HA
25.05.1996
30.03.2014
24.02.2014
18.02.2016
Kathryn Hay Tas. ALP HA 20.07.2002 18.03.2006

Source: compiled by the Parliamentary Library.


[1].     P Biongiourno, ‘Outgoing ALP National President discusses the ALP and the ALP conference’, Meet the Press, transcript, 30 July 2000, accessed 17 October 2016.

 

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