Meet Victoria’s first female Aboriginal MP

The women in Lidia Thorpe’s family have a history of blazing trails.

When Ms Thorpe gives her maiden speech in the Victorian Parliament today as the state’s first Aboriginal woman MP, her 84-year-old grandmother Alma Thorpe will be there to watch.

In the ’70s Alma Thorpe was one of the founders of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service. Her own mother set up a funeral fund for Aboriginal people in the ’60s to ensure proper burials.

Ms Thorpe said the strong women in her family had inspired her career in politics.

“All the women in my family have fought for Aboriginal people for a very long time,” she told NIT.

The new Member for the inner Melbourne electorate of Northcote said an Aboriginal woman in the Victorian parliament was “well overdue”.

She was sworn in earlier this week after storming to a historic win for the Greens in a November 18 by-election for the Legislative Assembly seat.

An early 11 percent swing against Labor at booths on polling night saw her pick up the third seat for the Greens in the Victorian Lower House.

Ms Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman from Victoria’s south-east and western districts, said even she was surprised by her overwhelming win.

“I was totally in shock,” she said.

“I thought it was going to be close — a close win or a close loss.

“I was not expecting the support we got. Everyone in Northcote is sick of the old parties and wanted to see change.”

Ms Thorpe said as an MP she would continue to care for country and would fight for a Great Forest National Park, which would cover big areas of the central Victorian highlands.

Overcrowded public transport systems were also a problem in Northcote.

She said she would also advocate for clan-based treaty in Victoria.

Ms Thorpe will take leave from her duties as chair of Victoria’s NAIDOC Week Committee.

Ms Thorpe has worked in Aboriginal health, education, employment and funeral services and run her own event management business since leaving school at the age of 14.

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said the win redefined Victorian politics.

“The victory is a win for community-led, progressive politics and puts the Greens in the box seat to replicate the result in Brunswick and Richmond and the local federal seat of Batman,” she said.

“We are all just so proud of Lidia and the incredible grassroots campaign she’s run,” Ms Ratman said.

“She has spent her life standing up for her community and will be a strong voice for the people of Northcote.”

Wendy Caccetta

reporter@nit.com.au

 

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