Nova Peris makes impassioned first speech

By AAP with AG staff | December 13, 2013

Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris has become the first Aboriginal woman sworn in to Federal Parliament.

Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris has become the first Aboriginal woman sworn in to Federal Parliament.

NOVA PERIS, THE FIRST Aboriginal woman elected to Australian Federal Parliament, said she had big dreams as a child growing up in the Northern Territory.

The Labor senator delivered her first speech in Parliament last week, while wearing white ochre face paint and a gold silk outfit featuring dancing brolgas.

A trailblazer for indigenous people in sport, Nova was also the first Aboriginal woman to win an Olympic gold medal back in 1996.

“I am a Territory girl,” Nova said in her speech. “I am immensely proud of who I am and where I hail from. It is majestic.”

First female Aboriginal senator

In her speech, Nova also acknowledged that the odds are stacked against Aboriginal people in Australia.

“As a child growing up, I dreamt big. Most people would have looked at an Aboriginal girl from the Territory, where the statistics of alcohol abuse, youth suicide, domestic violence, imprisonment rates and substandard education point to every reason why I should not succeed.

“But I was determined to be successful.”

Nova added that her sporting achievements were “virtually meaningless” compared to the struggles of her grandparents and mother to survive.

“I would swap all of that in a heartbeat, I would forgo any number of gold medals, to see Aboriginal Australians be free, healthy and participating fully in all that our great country has to offer,” she told the Senate.

“It is my dream to see kids from Santa Theresa, from Gunbalanya, from Kalkarindji and the Tiwi Islands all with the same opportunity as the kids from the eastern suburbs of Sydney.”

Text by Amy Middleton with AAP

Watch an excerpt from the speech below: