A grassroots woman with a fire in her belly, Lidia Thorpe is making history as Victoria’s first Aboriginal Senator.

Her appointment as Senator for the Victorian Greens follows a long list of achievements for Thorpe, which includes becoming the state’s first female Aboriginal Member of Parliament.

“I feel excited, honoured, proud, and part of me feels like it’s just taken so long to get a grassroots blackfulla voice in that place and we know why our people don’t participate in these spaces,” said Thorpe.

“I feel that finally we have someone who can take the struggle to where it has to be heard and actioned, rather than us feeling like we have to fight on the outside.

“I see mob around the country with hope and with expectation of what I’m able to do whilst I’m there. That is quite a heavy load to carry I must say as a Mum and as one woman, but it’s something I take very seriously and won’t let my mob down that’s for sure.”

 

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If you’d told me when I was this age that I’d become a Federal Senator, I would have said “no way!” Today the Victorian parliament confirmed that I will be the next Greens Senator for Victoria. 💚 That means that I get the keys to the office (although of course I’ll be working remotely for now) and will be getting myself and my team up and running in preparation for entering the Federal Parliament. Next up, I’ll meet with my Greens colleagues and will receive my portfolios – that’s when the job really gets going – and then I’ll be officially sworn into the Federal Parliament in October. It’s such an honour to represent the people of Victoria, who have demonstrated such strength, resilience and compassion this year. It’s also an honour to be the first Aboriginal person to represent Victoria in the Senate. I can’t wait to get in there. Lots to do now to get up and running. Thanks for your ongoing support, everyone. https://greensmps.org.au/articles/lidia-thorpe-confirmed

A post shared by Lidia Thorpe (@lidiathorpegunnaigunditj) on

The staunch Gunnai-Kurnai and Gunditjmara woman has been handed the responsibility of the First Nations, Justice, and Sport portfolios in the Greens reshuffle. Thorpe feels the First Nations portfolio is where she can make a huge difference.

“There’s so much we can do with this portfolio. They will be priorities our mob has been fighting for for ages,” she said.

“I’ll bring a different perspective to it because I’ve been a part of that struggle and that fight.”

Thorpe has outlined her priorities for the First Nations portfolio, addressing Treaty, ending deaths in custody, raising the age of criminal responsibility, addressing systemic racism, and reversing entrenched economic inequality.

“We had a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and [some] of those recommendations were not implemented. We know that a lot of them were, the ones that need to be implemented are the ones that keep our people out of the system so I will be pushing to fulfill those recommendations so that we can have more of a preventative approach,” she said.

“Part of that is addressing the systemic racism, we know that these systems have been built from racism and they will continue to always discriminate against our mob.”

“We need to break down these systems and processes that work against our people, get rid of them, and have a more preventative approach and divert resources into areas that build our people and communities.”

Thorpe’s priorities for the portfolio also include caring for Country and ensuring consent, as well as tackling the climate crisis.

“Climate crisis is a colonised label, a lot of our mob don’t connect to it, but what our mob do connect to is caring for Country and protecting and preserving our land and our water and our sacred, significant sites,” she said.

“When we are doing that it actually addresses the climate crisis, so we need to be able to do that.

“Climate is a priority for this whole nation, it’s a priority for every single person, but our cries for protecting our Country are not heard. Once they are heard, we will be able to continue to preserve and protect for thousands of generations.”

Thorpe will be the first Aboriginal federal MP for the Greens.

“The Greens are a grassroots democracy; I reckon they stole that from us actually as blackfullas! Our ways are about talking to your mob, working it through with your mob and coming together through a consensus decision-making—and that is what the Greens do,” she said.

As it stands, Thorpe will be sworn into Federal Parliament during the October sitting and give her speech in the following weeks.

“I’ll be walking in there proud; I’ll be walking in there strong, and I’ll be walking in there with my ancestors and the weight of what they have had to endure. That is what I wake up with every day and what our people wake up with every day,” she said.

“I’ll be walking into that place with my Old People with me.”

By Rachael Knowles