'Young, gay, black, true-blue': marking the 1967 referendum anniversary in the NT

Source: SBS

SBS World News Radio: Australian Labor politician Chansey Paech is breaking down stereotypes for young minorities across the country. Growing up in Alice Springs, he spends his days advocating for the rights and welfare of Aboriginal communities living in central Australia. As Australia marks the 50th anniversary of the Indigenous referendum, Chansey Paech shares his hopes for the future of Indigenous Australians.  Michelle Rimmer reports.   

Chansey Paech is a 29-year-old, fifth-generation Centralian who's swapped his horseriding boots for a suit in the Northern Territory's parliament.

The young politician distinguished himself as 'the face of diversity in the top-end' during his maiden speech last year.

"I am eternally proud of who I am and when I come from. I own it and wear it with pride. I am young, I am gay, I am black; a true-blue Territorian."

Australia's first openly gay Indigenous politician, Mr Paech is making waves as the Labor member for Namatjira.

"I like to think of myself as a face of real change. Changing the way that Governments have historically engaged with young people because, let's face it, everyone does a pretty crap job at it."

Chansey Paech grew up in Alice Springs, surrounded by strong Indigenous leaders and mentors.

He says his late grandmother, Barbara Ross, was an inspiration, alongside the likes of Pat Turner, Clare Martin and Vietnam veteran Geoff Shaw.

He says his grandmother's death is a loss he still mourns today.

"It's heart-wrenching. It is heart-wrenching and it's soul-destroying and, you know, you can never prepare yourself for death. There is nothing that I wouldn't do to have her here for one day."

A strong advocate for the rights of Indigenous Australians, Mr Paech set his sights on politics at an early age.

"It's in my blood. I come from a political family. My aunties have held office in the Northern Territory. And one of my big things is around economic empowerment for people living out in regional parts of Australia."

In 2012 he was elected to the Alice Springs Town Council and in 2016 he replaced his aunt, Alison Anderson, as the Territory member for Namatjira.

The seat covers a larger area than Victoria and Tasmania combined.

He's using the platform to advocate for same-sex marriage and constitutional recognition.

"It's been evident that our people are very passionate about constitutional recognition, so I hope that constitutional recognition is something that we talk about more often and that we start working to achieve that goal."

The 1967 referendum altered the Constitution allowing the federal government to make specific laws that applied to Indigenous Australians.

As the 50th anniversary of that referendum approaches, Mr Paech has questioned whether the attempt to address inequality has worked.

He told the Northern Territory Parliament: "You have to ask if the federal government is actually committed to closing the gap, or whether they just want to close their wallets."

Mr Paech says he dreams that his people will have the same opportunities as others living right across the land.

"I want to see more young, gay people and Indigenous, young, gay people, breaking down stigma, and breaking down stereotypes to make a strong and positive difference for our mob."

 

 

 

 

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