An Indigenous political party representing First Nations issues is set to campaign for local, state and federal elections after being registered by the Australian Electoral Commission this week.
Paakindji and Malyangapa man Uncle Owen Whyman launched the Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia from Wilcannia in December 2020, with nine Indigenous people from Dareton, Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Mutawinji, Newcastle and the Central Coast.
Mr Whyman said he didn’t expect his party to become official so soon.
“It’s an early Christmas present. People in the community are just so excited,” he told NITV News.
“They never thought something like this, coming out of a little country town like Wilcannia, will be able to have a registered party in parliament and apply for a seat in the upper house.”
“To get this news, it’s not only good for me but for all Indigenous people right across Australia.”
‘Baaka’, which means ‘river’ in Barkindji/Paakindji, refers to the Darling River that passes through Wilcannia.
It's one of the primary issues for the new political entity.
Millions of fish were found dead in the river in 2019, due to a lack of water.
A royal commission the same year found that federal government officials had committed unlawful actions, negligence and dishonest administration with multibillion-dollar deals they made to “recover” water for the river.
While Mr Whyman has been actively campaigning to protect the sacred river, he said existing political systems haven’t been listening to First Nations people.
“I thought, 'why don’t we start our own party up and be a voice in parliament?'” Mr Whyman said.
“If the government weren’t going to listen, we’ll get in there and make them listen.”
“Our main aim is to protect all sacred lands and waterways right across Australia."
The Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia now has 2050 members around the country.
Mr Whyman said membership is open for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“Anyone can come on to be a member and be a part of history,” he said.
While the party is aiming to get a seat in the upper house in next year’s federal election, Mr Whyman said their efforts will focus on getting represented on the state level for now.
“It’s about time we have Indigenous people in parliament, also an Indigenous party to fight for Indigenous people,” Mr Whyman said.
“We want to be a voice for the people.”
The Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia is set to spend the summer campaigning.