Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe officially joined the Senate in an historic moment on Tuesday, becoming the first Aboriginal senator for Victoria.
Thorpe entered the Senate chamber cloaked in a traditional possum skin cloak, with her fist raised high and carrying a message stick that has a single mark on it for each of the 441 First Nations people who have died in custody since the Royal Commission in 1991.
“If it wasn’t official before, it most certainly is now. I’m so proud to be the first Aboriginal Victorian Senator and working alongside my Greens colleagues. Thank you so much for your well wishes,” Thorpe said in a statement on social media.
If it wasn’t official before, it most certainly is now. I’m so proud to be the first Aboriginal Victorian Senator and working alongside my Greens colleagues. Thank you so much for your well wishes. pic.twitter.com/CdNqcnbjfZ— Lidia Thorpe (@lidia__thorpe) October 6, 2020
“My fist was raised as I entered the Senate chamber as an expression of my people’s strength, resilience and survival and a symbol of solidarity with all the families of Aboriginal people who have died in custody,” she said.
“I carried with me a message stick bearing a single mark for each of the 441 First Nations people who have died in custody since the Royal Commission in 1991. I am determined to work hard for justice in this place, every day.
“Now it’s time to get started – I’ll be fighting for strong action on the climate crisis, to tackle the economic inequality, and for a Treaty, so we can finally have justice for Aboriginal people in this country, and move forward together as a stronger Nation.”
Thorpe is the first federal Aboriginal representative for The Greens, and fills the shoes of former Greens leader Richard Di Natale, following his retirement.
Thorpe is no stranger to history-making milestones, having previously become the first Aboriginal woman in Victorian state parliament in 2017, elected as the MP for Northcote.
She has a long history of activism and advocacy for Indigenous rights, as well as social and environmental justice.
Thorpe recently told an online forum hosted by Women for Election Australia that we need more women and First Nations people at decision-making tables.
“Being black means that you’re born political and we’re always justifying our existence, and fighting for a seat the table. We battle daily injustices. Fortunately, we have the fight in us,” she said.
As a senator, Thorpe’s biggest priority will be calling for a treaty with First Nations people.
“We’re the only Commonwealth country that doesn’t have Treaty with its First Nations people,” Thorpe says.
“Who are we? What do we represent, what’s our culture? Where do you want to go? What do you want this country to look like? What’s important to you to unify this country? I believe a Treaty can answer those questions and bring peace.”
Thorpe will also prioritise tackling the climate crisis, and economic inequality.
Senator @lidia__thorpe arrives on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country carrying a Message Stick “memorialising the 441 First Nations people who have died in custody without justice” #auspol @SBSNews @NITV pic.twitter.com/AOGCSAoAO6— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) October 6, 2020