Indigenous Politicians

One feature of both the Australian and US polls which has so far gone unremarked is that the two elections saw the number of indigenous politicians fall to zero. In Australia, Aden Ridgeway lost his NSW Senate seat, while Andrea Mason, Family First’s leader, narrowly failed to win a SA Senate seat. In the US, Brad Carson (D-OK), the only Native American in the US House, failed in his Senate bid, while Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), the only Native American senator, retired. If I haven’t missed anyone (and I hope I have), then that would mean that of the 535 federal politicians in the US, and 226 federal politicians in Australia, not one is indigenous.

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5 Responses to Indigenous Politicians

  1. Its certainly disapointing at the federal levels. What about at the state levels? I know in WA one labor party member of the Lower House (for the seat of Kimberly I think) is Aboriginal.

  2. David Raftery says:

    Not surprisingly, with a big indigenous population and strong indigenous political traditions – Aboriginal land councils, Aboriginal community controlled organisations, and, of course, a growing political appreciation of the importance of an Aboriginal profile in an electorate where Aboriginal issues do seriously move votes – the Northern Territory scores highest.

    By my estimation, there are four indigenous MLAs from 25: John Ah Kit, Marion Scrymgour, Elliot McAdam and Matthew Bonson (all ALP). Both Ah Kit and Scrymgour are in the eight member cabinet.

    I could well be wrong but I had a feeling that Scrymgour was the first female indigenous member of an Australian cabinet, but I could well be wrong. I too hope that I have missed people!

  3. Andrew Leigh says:

    4/25 must certainly beat any other state or territory in raw terms. I wonder if it also does best in relative terms. What fraction of the NT population are Indigenous?

  4. Andrew Leigh says:

    Found the answer to my own question at the ABS website. The figures are for 1996, but won’t have changed that much in the 2001 census.

    “The Indigenous population in the Northern Territory comprised 28.5 per cent of the total Northern Territory population at 30 June 1996. This is the highest proportion of any State or Territory. The lowest was 0.5 per cent for Victoria. Proportions in other States and Territories were New South Wales (1.8 per cent), Queensland (3.1 per cent), South Australia (1.5 per cent), Western Australia and Tasmania (3.2 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (1.0 per cent).”

  5. David Raftery says:

    There is another point worth mentioning here.

    Not only is there a very significant indigenous population, but it is a rapidly growing one, in contrast with the non-indigenous population. My guess would be that the overall birth rate in the NT is declining.

    Clare Martin raised this point in relation to the following issues:

    1/ economic development in the NT, with resulting labour and skill demands
    2/ high indigenous unemployment

    These two issues have customarily been played off against each other by NT politicians, instead of being married as challenging, but rich opportunities.

    But back to political representation. There is a very high turnover of non-indigenous population. There are much fewer non-indigenous people in the NT with long-term prospects of their residence.

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