• Linda Burney, the newly appointed shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, says there are many issues she would like to see "above the political fray". (SBS)Source: SBS
The incoming shadow minister for Indigenous Australians hopes to keep some issues 'above the political fray'.
NITV Staff Writer

4 Jun 2019 - 8:10 AM  UPDATED 4 Jun 2019 - 8:10 AM

The first Indigenous woman in federal parliament said the political situation is "extraordinary" after Prime Minister Scott Morrison's surprise election victory.

Former opposition leader Bill Shorten promised to make Senator Pat Dodson the Indigenous affairs minister if the Labor Party won the election.

However, the new Labor Party leader Albanese confirmed last week that the “father of reconciliation” did not nominate himself as a candidate for the frontbench and will not hold the portfolio in opposition.

Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney will instead become shadow minister for Indigenous Australians.

“We’re getting over the shock of losing but getting on with the business,” she told SBS political reporter Nakari Thorpe.

“I think the really important thing is to remind ourselves that Labor did not win the election. We are in opposition, so the job that I have is to keep the government and my counterparts on that side of the house accountable.”

Last week, Liberal MP Ken Wyatt was officially sworn in as the minister for Indigenous Australians.

The appointments of Ms Burney and Mr Wyatt mark the first time that an Indigenous person has overseen either of those portfolios.

The PM indicated that addressing Indigenous youth suicides is a priority and the Labor Party said it would welcome a bipartisan approach to address that issue as well as calls to establish an Indigenous voice to parliament.

Linda Burney vows to meet families in bid to tackle Indigenous suicide crisis
Labor's spokeswoman for Indigenous Australians wants to learn more about the factors that may have led to some people taking their own lives in recent years.

Ms Burney said she would like to speak directly with families affected by Indigenous youth suicide and that she would be willing to travel alongside Mr Wyatt.

“The issue of youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is certainly not a new issue," she said.

“I think Scott Morrison is serious and certainly my side of politics, the Labor Party, is serious about this issue.”

“Suicide is the end of a very long road of other things. We need to look at what’s happening across the community, across families, and realise that responsibility lies with everyone on this particular issue."

The Sydney MP said it would be "simply wrong" if policies around sensitive and contentious issues were made without firsthand discussions with families and local communities.

“I’ve always been a great believer, whether its suicide or domestic violence or whatever the issue is, that the people who know the most about it are the people that have been directly affected,” she said.

“Having First Nations people in those roles means that you’ve got a lived understanding of what the issues are, particularly at a community level what the protocols are, what the cultural nuances are and also a very clear understanding of the historical circumstances.” 

The new shadow cabinet is expected to meet in Brisbane on Tuesday, before Labor MPs embark on a national “listening tour”. The first sitting of the new parliament will be held on July 2.

“There will be areas that we don’t agree on and that’s the contest of ideas in the political democratic process," Ms Burney said. "At the end of the day my job is to make sure we consult, we talk with Aboriginal people and people that are involved in delivering Aboriginal services.”

Lifeline 13 11 14

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Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14 or a local Aboriginal Health Service. There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe. Indigenous Australian psychologist services can be found here.  

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