Proud Yorta Yorta woman Sheena Watt is set to become Victorian Labor's first Aboriginal MP, after the state's premier called on his party to capitalise on a “historic opportunity” to select an Indigenous Victorian to replace Jenny Mikakos in parliament.
Ms Watt is a trade unionist and has an extensive background in the health and community sectors, and is currently employed as the Executive Manager for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy & Programs at not-for-profit, AFL SportsReady.
Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, said in a press conference on Friday that his party had the chance to create history by electing a First Nations MP.
"From great sadness from the retirement of Jenny Mikakos comes a historic opportunity for us to, not just as a Labor government commit to justice for Aboriginal people and a true partnership with First Nations peoples, but it presents an opportunity for the Labor Party to do the same thing," said Mr Andrews.
Ms Watt emerged as the frontrunner when her closest rival, Taungurung woman Prue Stewart, withdrew from the preselection race on Sunday morning after enjoying the support of the Premier.
'That outcome fills me with joy for Sheena and the Aboriginal community, and I have rung her to congratulate her on this important moment for Labor in Victoria,' Ms Stewart wrote in a statement.
On Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews expressed his sadness at Ms Mikakos’s decision to resign but publicly urged his party to choose an Indigenous state MP after acknowledging the need for improved Indigenous outcomes to be led by Indigenous people.
"I have known for my entire adult life that if you are genuinely committed to better outcomes for Aboriginal people, then they need to be led by Aboriginal people.
"I think we've got an opportunity right now, a moment, that is precious, and I don't think we should miss it,” Mr Andrews said.
“We need to do something special, not just business as usual."
Also competing for the seat was former Hume mayor Casey Nunnm, long-time political staffer Matt Hilakari, Maurice Blackburn lawyer and former MP, Jennifer Kanis, with Ms Nunn and Mr Hilarki considered favourites.
The calls were supported by the Labor Party’s Victorian president, Susie Byers, who encouraged her colleagues to support an Indigenous woman for the vacancy on Thursday. Ms Byers said she would be “thrilled” for Labor to elect a First Nations female MP to the upper house.