• Cynthia Lui says she moved into politics to help make change. (NITV)Source: NITV
Australia's first Torres Strait Islander parliamentarian Cynthia Lui wants to reassure disenchanted voters some politicians are genuinely determined to make a difference.
Ella Archibald-Binge

Living Black
19 Sep 2018 - 1:13 PM  UPDATED 20 Sep 2018 - 2:48 PM

It was a historic moment in February when Cynthia Lui stood to make her maiden speech in Queensland's parliament as the country's first Torres Strait Islander parliamentarian. 

In an emotional speech, she acknowledged her 'humble beginnings' growing up on Yam Island, a remote community in the Torres Strait, and vowed to give a voice to the voiceless. 

Ms Lui is now the second Indigenous woman serving in the Palaszczuk Labor government, alongside Quandamooka woman Leeanne Enoch. 

Australia's first Torres Strait Islander parliamentarian vows to 'stand up and fight' in maiden speech
Cynthia Lui, the first Torres Strait Islander person elected to any Australian parliament, has vowed to give a voice to the voiceless in her maiden speech to the Queensland Legislative Assembly.

But while many have welcomed her election win, she says others have questioned her motivations. 

"I’ve had questions about my motivations for politics, and 'what’s going to make you any different and why do you think you are special?'" says Ms Lui.

"I think the legacy that I want to leave here is that you know, there are politicians out there that do it from the heart.

"I’m not saying that we all don’t, but there are politicians out there that want to really make a difference from a genuine place."

The proud Iamalag is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, who were both heavily involved in Torres Strait politics. 

But ironically, as a child she was determined to become anything other than a politician. 

"She could see how I was travelling, more or less living out of suitcases and never being home… so I think she could see the busyness of being in politics and she didn’t want any part of it," says her father Getano Lui, Deputy Mayor of the Torres Strait Island Regional Council. 

But a decade as a health care worker on Yam Island, followed by years working in the areas of child protection, domestic violence and homelessness, would steer Ms Lui towards a political career. 

"I wanted to help people," she says. 

"Whether it was in health, child protection, working with women around domestic violence or homelessness… it was all of that put together where I got to a certain point where I thought I could do more."

Ms Lui says she still pinches herself when she thinks about her landmark election win in late 2017. 

"I remember seeing all the results come through and I thought 'oh my gosh, it’s actually happening'," she recalls. 

"I think I was crying in some parts, but it was moreso tears of happiness that I’ve actually, I’ve achieved this."

As a student at Yam Island State School, it's a moment she never thought she'd see.

"Never in my wildest dreams I thought I would be a state politician, or this would be a career that I would soon explore," she says.

"If someone said it to me back then it was probably really hard to believe, because coming from an island community, you don’t dream big enough.

"And I think the key message that I’m trying to get out to kids now is know you’re worth it, and know you have heaps of potential and lots to give and you just have to believe in yourself."

As she embarks on her political career, Ms Lui says her philosophy is to be herself and stay true to her Yam Island community.

"[Yam Island] is where it all starts for me, and this is the perspective that I base everything walking into this new, political space, this new political journey," she says. 

"Yam Island brings me back to my core and that’s what it’s all about. And I feel that if I lose this, that’s when I know I’ll lose myself, and I don’t ever want to see that happen."

Living Black airs 9pm Wednesdays on NITV (Ch.34) or catch up at On Demand

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