Senator McCarthy used the speech to highlight how issues around recognition and marriage equality affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
15 Sep 2016 - 12:18 PM  UPDATED 15 Sep 2016 - 12:24 PM

Fighting back tears, Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy had to pause for a moment after pleading to Malcolm Turnbull to stop the gay marriage plebiscite.

In her first speech to parliament, the newest Indigenous senator spoke of a female relative who committed suicide because of the difficulty of reconciling her sexual identity with her strong Aboriginal culture.

Watch the full speech:

"She was suffocating from her inability to find balance in her cultural world view," Senator McCarthy said on Wednesday.

"So one night she left this world - just gave up at the age of 23."

The former journalist urged the prime minister to reconsider the plebiscite bill introduced to parliament earlier that day.

"Please pull back from this brink of public vitriol."

With an indigenous print shrouded over her mini-lectern, Senator McCarthy also spoke about the struggle for land rights and recognition.

She used the speech to call for the statehood of the Northern Territory, saying it would help give Indigenous people a greater say in a constitutional recognition referendum.

"It's time the Commonwealth encouraged more seriously the growth of the Northern Territory as perhaps the seventh state."

She urged parliamentarians to understand the decades-long battle for country among First-Nation families and drawn-out legal battles that had worn out so many.

That was why she fully understood the impatience and, in some cases, total rejection among some towards parliament's push for recognition.

"It's a difficult pill to swallow as First Peoples to yet again have to ask others to respect us, our place, our culture, our families in this country when we know we've been here well over 60,000 years."

Supporters in the public gallery cheered and waved the Aboriginal flag during her speech.

Watch: Linda Burney includes Wiradjuri song as part of maiden speech
“I was born at a time when the Australian Government knew how many sheep there were, but not how many Aboriginal people. I was 10-years-old before the ‘67 referendum fixed that. The first decade of my life was spent as a non-citizen.”
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