From poverty to history for Ken Wyatt

Ken Wyatt has overcome a childhood of poverty to "break the brown glass ceiling" and become the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives.

Ken Wyatt has overcome a childhood of poverty to "break the brown glass ceiling" and become the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives.

But it would not have been possible without a quality education.

Mr Wyatt grew up in a family of 10 for whom money was so tight he helped out by trapping rabbits.

Recently, at the 70th birthday of his primary school teacher, Ms Abernathy, he brought her a gift that captured perfectly the financial struggles his family faced.

"I took her an apple," he told AAP.

"When I was a kid I never had the chance to take (her) an apple because we just couldn't afford it."

When he reached year 10, his parents Mona Phyllis and Donald were approached by the local Rotary Club, which deemed him "worth supporting" and sponsored him so he could undertake his leaving certificate.

During the school holidays, he would work odd jobs to support his family.

"I did that to put food on the table for my family and buy clothes because we were relying on hand-me-downs," Mr Wyatt said.

"That taught me an ethos of working hard. Education is a major reason for my success."

On Sunday the 58-year-old declared victory in the West Australian seat of Hasluck after gaining a 1,000-vote lead on sitting Labor member Sharryn Jackson.

The Liberal Party said that with only a small number of votes left to be counted, it was impossible for Ms Jackson to win.

In declaring the seat, Mr Wyatt said that throughout his journey from a childhood of poverty to his career in bureaucracy he had gained knowledge and skills that would guide him in his political
career.

"I have come from a life of poverty and through my own individual efforts I stand now within the national arena," he said on Sunday.

"I will bring both that wisdom and my knowledge and skills to (represent) all of the people of Hasluck."

The former director of Aboriginal health in WA and NSW has vowed to use his maiden speech to pay tribute to Kevin Rudd for his apology to the stolen generation.

"When he delivered his address to the house that day, being a typical macho male I really didn't think the emotions would impact me as much as they were," Mr Wyatt told AAP.

"I must admit I was sitting there with tears because I knew what my mother and her brothers and sisters had gone through, particularly knowing the abuse that happened to her.

"I wish my mother was alive and (could) have seen."

Mr Wyatt said that when the tears flowed down his face, he was probably feeling relief that the pain of her experiences had been acknowledged.

His mother, Mona Phyllis Abdullah, was taken from her parents when she was about five and placed in Roelands mission, south of Perth.

On the day of the apology, several Liberal MPs including West Australians Don Randall were absent from the house when Mr Rudd delivered the apology.

Mr Wyatt said he had been asked by a friends how he could stand for a party that refused to apologise and included MPs who chose to snub the apology.

"My response was, unless you become part of an organisation you cannot change it from the outside," he said.

"By virtue of being a member you can have the debate. Times occur when people have to be reminded their behaviour and comments are inappropriate.

"I have no reservations about challenging and standing up to them on that issue."

Source AAP

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