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Meet the independents determined to put First Nations issues front and centre

Giovanni Torre -

Long-time human rights advocates Megan Krakouer and Gerry Georgatos are fighting to put First Nations issues on the agenda at this Federal election.

With more than 500 Indigenous deaths in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody in 1991, and a huge gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in health, education, housing, employment and other areas, the "social justice independents" are running to represent Western Australia in the Senate.

The duo has worked as part of the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project for more than three years.

Ms Krakouer said they have experience working with the most vulnerable and marginalised people across the nation.

"We have seen too many brothers and sisters left behind because of racist policies and legislation.

We come across a lot of people who are silenced, who are voiceless.

"We have been failed by one government after another. They make the same promises and they don't deliver, and that's reflected in the incarceration rate, in child removals, deaths in custody, homelessness and suicides.

"We wanted to expedite, articulate, educate and arbitrate ways forward in the highest legislative body in the country," she said.

Ms Krakouer and Mr Georgatos have worked on a number of human rights campaigns, including collecting testimonies for a prospective class action surrounding Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

The candidates have met with Indigenous people across the state and say man have identified housing, child removal, the justice system and suicides as major issues.

Ms Krakouer said the fact First Nations people make up a small percent of the national population was one factor driving political inaction.

Megan Krakouer.

"There is no political will to address the suffering and mistreatment of people, particularly when they are in prisons. That is something I can't accept."

She said she and Mr Georgatos were running as independents so they would be free to "say what needs to be said".

"As independents... We rely on people power. I've been overwhelmed by the support we have received from many.

"They see something different; they see Gerry and I do have the experience behind us. They know if we got there, so would their voices and their issues," she said.

Mr Georgatos said a robust Commonwealth human rights act would be a top priority for them if elected.

"It must include not only citizens but everyone in the country, no one should be invisible," he said.

"We also need to worry about prisoner rights.

"500,000 Australians living today have spent time in prison, 120,000 of them are First Nations; that's one in six First Nations people."

Mr Georgatos said there must be an urgent investment in meeting all unmet housing needs in the country, eliminating the current wait lists for public housing, and strong action on climate change.

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