Warren Mundine has always been heavily engaged in politics.
“When I was a young boy my father and mum used to clean the table down after dinner and discuss the politics of the day with my older siblings,” Mr Mundine said.
A proud Bundjalung, Yuin and Gumbaynggirr man, for the first 13 years of his life Mr Mundine lived under the Aboriginal Protection Act in New South Wales.
“We were second class citizens under the Act. My family were very strong about getting away from that,” Mr Mundine said.
One of eleven children, his parents actively campaigned against the Act and his siblings were part of the 1967 referendum that saw Indigenous Australians become included in the census.
“The Aboriginal struggle, that’s what very much got me interested in politics,” Mr Mundine said.
“My parents always said no matter what you do in life, what are you doing for your people?”
Goals for Gilmore
Now running for the New South Wales south coast seat of Gilmore in the upcoming federal election, Mr Mundine’s main concerns are jobs and mental health for not only Indigenous Australians, but all Australians.
“For Gilmore, we have a large Aboriginal population, about six percent of the electorate. Jobs are a big issue here,” Mr Mundine said.
With a focus on the economy characteristic of most Liberals, Mr Mundine believes getting people into work will be beneficial for the electorate.
He said repairing the neglected southern end of the Princes Highway could be a starting point in creating work for people in the electorate as well as making the highway safer.
Mr Mundine also flagged mental health as a key issue in Gilmore.
“Mental health is a big issue in our community here, for Indigenous [people] as well as a lot of veterans here dealing with those issues,” Mr Mundine said.
Mr Mundine said the Prime Minister’s Office has approved a headspace program in Gilmore to help tackle the issue and that he is also looking into military and veteran affairs funding to support mental health in the electorate.
He added that working with young people in the area of mental health is also important.
“We need to really work for our youth in this area,” Mr Mundine said.
When asked about creating culturally appropriate Indigenous mental health services, Mr Mundine was clear experts must be at the foundation of these services.
“I’ll be listening and working with experts in Indigenous mental health to better these services,” Mr Mundine said.
Mr Mundine returned to employment as another solution.
“It’s also about getting people into jobs, and that helps with mental health,” Mr Mundine said.
The candidate for Gilmore spoke about setting up an employment hub in the area to take young people from welfare and put them into jobs.
As a Bundjalung, Yuin and Gumbaynggirr man, Mr Mundine said his Indigenous heritage moulds who he is as a person.
“It’s the basis of me as a living, breathing human being. I’m a very, very proud Aboriginal person,” Mr Mundine said.
“My history, my family, plays such a big role in how I operate and how I think.”
While his biggest influence will always be his family, Mr Mundine said he finds role models in Neville Bonner – the first Indigenous man elected to parliament, Bill Ferguson – an Indigenous political leader and agitator, and other pioneers of Indigenous affairs dating back to the 1920s who fought for Indigenous rights.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” Mr Mundine said.
Mr Mundine said he also wants to support Indigenous culture and ensure it becomes part of school and university curriculums.
He shows his passion for Indigenous issues through his candidacy bid for Gilmore.
Mr Mundine wants Indigenous Australians to stay in work, receive a good education and have better health.
“An important function of government is creating the environment for people to thrive in and to be able to build a life for themselves and their families, and for their culture to survive and thrive,” Mr Mundine said.
He believes the role of government is to build an environment for economic development, health and education.
Advocacy in practice
In recent weeks Mr Mundine has been working with the Waminda Birthing and Community Centre project.
He said it is logical and “just common sense” to have a culturally competent birthing service for Indigenous parents and their children.
“It’s a much-needed service for our Aboriginal women and children to be born in a safe and culturally appropriate manner,” Mr Mundine said.
Mr Mundine and his team have been working with the Indigenous women, mothers and fathers who have been fighting for this and they are now in contact with the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the issue.
“It is so important to give a good beginning to our Aboriginal kids,” Mr Mundine said.
“We need Gilmore to have a person who is focusing on the people of Gilmore and ensuring they get the services they deserve and the opportunities they deserve.”
Mr Mundine said he has delivered on what has been asked of him already and that he is an outspoken person who says what needs to be said.
He said he will continue to fight for the funding to advance Gilmore and its people.
“I’m there for them – and it’s only them that I’m working for,” Mr Mundine said.
By Hannah Cross