Member for the Kimberley Divina D’Anna has delivered her inaugural speech in Western Australian Parliament, promising to elevate the voices and increase the opportunities of those living in the region.

A proud Yawuru, Bardi, Nimanburru and Kija woman, D’Anna introduced herself in parliament in language but acknowledged the short introduction was “the extent of [her] ability to speak the language” her Ancestors had spoken before her.

“I want my kids and all other First Nations kids to know our language and understand why their mother and other mothers cannot speak it,” she said.

The fourth consecutive Aboriginal member of the Kimberley since Ernie Bridge took over the seat in 1980, D’Anna highlighted the rich history of the Kimberley and the need for everyone’s histories to be heard and understood.

“We have a mixture of all different cultures, from the many different Aboriginal language groups to the rich and deep multicultural historic influences of the pearling industry, the gold rush and the most recent race to populate the vast and rugged country over the last century,” she said.

“All these stories, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, need to be learnt to acquire a better understanding of where we are today and why we find ourselves here.

“Truth-telling is for not only young future generations but all people, not matter their age, race or class.”

The Kimberley MP spoke of the need for action in the Kimberley, acknowledging the endless studies, research initiatives and reports carried out in the Kimberley – particularly with reference to Indigenous people – that had not delivered in the past.

She said the State Government must build the capacity of Kimberley residents to take up opportunities that come their way.

“This means having better education and safe housing and strengthening our social and emotional wellbeing,” D’Anna said.

“My focus will be on building a stronger, cohesive community that not only survives, but thrives.”

D’Anna touched on the mining, agriculture and tourism opportunities available to the region, noting that as a “tourism mecca”, the Kimberley must have “stringent measures … to deal with the impact that these industries will have on the land and people of the Kimberley”, likely a nod to the State’s outdated cultural heritage legislation which is currently under review.

The new MP said she was committed to ensuring the “level of living [in the region] is well above the current level”.

“To see people in the Kimberley living below the poverty line is completely and utterly unacceptable in this day and age.”

It was also not lost on D’Anna that as the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recently passed, WA still has a long way to go on its disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous Australians.

“Between 2008 and 2019, Western Australia recorded the highest number of Indigenous deaths in custody of any State or Territory in Australia; that number is sitting at 51,” she said.

“Black Lives Matter. We need to do better. This place needs to do better.”

Ending with a promise to ensure the voices of the Kimberley are brought to WA Parliament, D’Anna committed to fighting for the people to so “we leave our country and community in a better place than we found it”.

By Hannah Cross