Dorinda Cox calls for national inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women in maiden Senate speech

Western Australia’s first female Aboriginal Senator has been a strong advocate for women’s safety and is herself a survivor of family violence.

Greens Senator Dorinda Cox delivers her maiden speech in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra.

Greens Senator Dorinda Cox delivers her maiden speech in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP

This article contains references to domestic/family violence.

Greens Senator Dorinda Cox has called for a national inquiry to be established into missing and murdered First Nations women in her maiden speech to federal parliament.

Western Australia’s first female Indigenous senator also used her speech to declare she wanted to inspire others to follow in her footsteps, and warned of the continued prevalence of “systemic discrimination”. 

The Noongar-Bibbulmun-Yamajti woman began her speech on Tuesday in her native language in an address calling for stronger action to stand up for the rights of Indigenous people.

“We continue to see the ever-increasing erosion of Indigenous rights including the rights to country and culture - which impact on our daily living,” Senator Cox told the Senate.

“Under the cloak of economic and social development, we make laws and enact decisions in this country that destroy the fabric of social and cultural rights of our First Peoples.

“This degree of marginalisation continues to perpetuate despair and hopelessness.” 

Greens Senator Dorinda Cox is congratulated after delivering her maiden speech.
Source: AAP

Ahead of Senator Cox's speech, a smoking ceremony was held at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra to recognise her appointment - replacing the now-retired former Greens Senator Rachel Siewert. 

Senator Cox shared in her address how she had first visited Canberra when she was 17, recounting how she never imagined she’d return as the fifth Indigenous woman currently in the nation's parliament.

She said while visiting parliament she had been inspired to enter politics after reading the Redfern speech by former Prime Minister Paul Keating - recognising the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“It was in this moment that he felt and understood the impact of mine and my family's story,” Senator Cox said. 

“It is my dream to re-create this moment and others like it for many more Australian First Nations girls and boys to spark their passion for participation in our political systems. 

“Rather than the sorrow or discontent I hear in their voices when they talk about our current system and representation.”

Greens Senator Dorinda Cox at an indigenous smoking ceremony at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Old Parliament House in Canberra.
Source: AAP

The former police officer is a strong advocate for women’s safety and herself a survivor of family violence.

She has also worked on social policy at both federal and state government levels as an advocate for women and girls and used her first speech to advocate for action on this front.

Senator Cox said that “systemic change” was needed to address the underlying social disadvantage leading to higher rates of domestic violence faced by women of First Nations background.

“We are 35 times more likely to experience violence and 10 times more likely to be killed,” she said.

“This is why I will campaign for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered First Nations Australian women.” 

Indigenous trailblazer Dorinda Cox delivers first speech to the Senate

The Greens Senator also used her speech to declare she wanted to use her platform to call for a national treaty with First Nations people.

Senator Cox said the continued disparities faced by people of First Nations background had been prolonged by a “serious lack of political will” to address these concerns.

She suggested a legally binding settlement between Indigenous peoples and the federal government was needed to bring the nation together.

“The only way I see to do this is to join other Commonwealth countries in creating OUR own national treaty,” she told the Senate.

“We need truth-telling processes that pick up where the apology stopped.”

Other concerns identified by Senator Cox included the rate of child removals, as well as incarceration and incidents of deaths in custody faced by people of First Nations background.

She also pointed to the need for stronger cultural heritage protections following the destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge caves last year.

As the federal government grapples with climate politics ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Senator Cox also added her voice to calls for tougher action.

“As we move closer to the point of no return on climate change, we need urgent action and leadership from all Australian governments and sides of politics,” she said. 

There are now seven First Nations representatives in federal parliament.

Senator Cox joins fellow Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, Labor's Pat Dodson, Linda Burney and Malarndirri McCarthy, and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie

But Senator Cox remains concerned about a lack of diversity in both chambers.

“I want every young person in this country to believe that regardless of your background - one day you could be standing here providing your first speech too,” she said.

“You have the right to belong in this system that should represent you and your issues.”

The single mother - who now resides in Perth and grew up in Fremantle - also recognised her family during her speech, including her two daughters.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, visit or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here. Resources for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be found at Headspace: Yarn Safe.

Published 19 October 2021 at 7:29pm, updated 19 October 2021 at 7:39pm
By Tom Stayner, Sarah Collard
Source: SBS News