Palmer United Party senator Jacqui Lambie says she will take legal action against the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania chairman, Clyde Mansell, after he challenged her to provide evidence to support her claim of Aboriginal ancestry.
Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie says she will not back down on her claims that her family is linked to celebrated Tasmanian Aboriginal chieftain Mannalargenna, despite her claim being dismissed by Aboriginal elder Clyde Mansell, who is a direct descendant.
Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie has been challenged by leaders of Tasmania's Aboriginal community to defend claims of her Aboriginal heritage made in her maiden speech to parliament.
In the speech, she said her family traces its history to celebrated Tasmanian Aboriginal chieftain Mannalargenna.
But Aboriginal elder Clyde Mansell, a direct descendant of the Mannalargenna people, questioned the claim. He says if Senator Lambie was part of his family group, he would have knowledge about it.
“That’s my family line, and people who are acknowledged descendants of Mannalargenna don’t know anything about this claim,” Mr Mansell told the Mercury newspaper.
But Senator Lambie, who does not hold a certificate of Aboriginality, says she does not need to provide proof. She has family tree documents that show a connection to one of Mannalargenna’s granddaughters, Margaret Briggs.
"I won’t be backing down on this," Lambie said in Canberra this morning. "I’ve got lawyers on it now in reference to Mansell and if he’s going to continue to make those claims then I guess we’ll see how far we’re going to go with this."
Asked if that means she will take defamation action, Senator Lambie replied: "That's exactly what's going to happen."
Senator Lambie revealed her Indigenous ancestry in her maiden speech to parliament last week.
Opening the speech, she paid tribute to traditional owners, adding that she shared "their blood, culture and history".
"I acknowledge and pay my respects to Australia's Aboriginal traditional owners. I share their blood, culture and history through my mother's, Sue Lambie's, family," she told parliament.
"We trace our history over six generations to celebrated Aboriginal chieftain of the Tasmania east coast, Mannalargenna."
The heritage claim surprised some of her colleagues, but Lambie told NITV News she had been honest about her ancestry.
"I’ve been quite honest about that all along about the Indigenous heritage in my family but it’s not something I go and broadcast out there," she told NITV News shortly after the speech.
Mr Mansell has challenged Senator Lambie to provide evidence of her ancestry.
"It tends to cheapen what we as a family structure have nurtured throughout our lives and to have somebody to stand up in the national parliament and announce she is Aboriginal and name my family, therein lies the offence," he told the paper.
Senator Lambie told NITV News she won't be withdrawing her claim of Aboriginal ancestry as Mr Mansell has called for.
"No, I won't be doing that. It's in black and white. It's clear for everybody to see. I am not the only one in this predicament where Mansell has come out and said these things in the past. This is tribal warfare down in Tasmania. I'm quite sure people are very aware of this situation and I won't be backing down on my claims at all."
Ms Lambie provided family tree documents to ABC's Australian Story program that showed a connection with one of Mannalargenna’s granddaughters, Margaret Briggs. The family tree documents show she married Thomas Hite, of whom no trace can be found in the archives, according to the Australian Story team. The Tasmanian Pioneer Index shows Margaret Biggs had no spouse and no children.
Speaking to ABC Radio in Tasmania this morning, Senator Lambie said the Aboriginal descent comes from her Indigenous grandfather's side of the family.
"I'm very aware of my Indigenous heritage which is the Mannalargenna and I know who's throwing the sticks and stones down there and I'm not impressed," she said.