Aboriginal woman in Aus goes from ‘non-citizen’ to parliament
Wearing a cloak decorated with the goanna lizard, the first Aboriginal woman elected to Australia’s Lower House took her seat in parliament this week, saying that as a child she was a “non-citizen”. Former teacher Linda Burney made history in July when she was voted into the House of Representatives, joining only a handful of other indigenous lawmakers in Australia’s national parliament.
“It charts my life, on it is my clan totem the goanna and my personal totem the white cockatoo,” she told parliament on Wednesday. “I was born at a time when the Australian government knew how many sheep there were but not how many Aboriginal people,” Burney, a former New South Wales state government minister, said. “I was 10 years old before the ‘67 referendum fixed that. The first decade of my life was spent as a non-citizen,” the 59-year-old lawmaker added.
The 1967 referendum changed Australia’s constitution to allow Aboriginal people to be counted in the national census. But they still suffer disproportionate levels of disadvantage and imprisonment and have a much lower life expectancy. They are also dealing with the legacy of policies under which indigenous children were taken from their mothers to be raised by white families or in institutions.