WA Labor’s landslide State election victory brought with it an unprecedented 53 seats in the Lower House.
But it also saw a small number of Aboriginal candidates elected to government, prompting the question: what will this mean for WA’s Indigenous community?
WA Labor’s Indigenous-related election policies focused on health and employment, including funding promises to Aboriginal health and mental health programs totalling $29.5 million.
Labor further promised infrastructure upgrades that seek to not only develop Indigenous communities but also create Indigenous jobs. With the addition of Aboriginal-led family violence courts, investment in housing, tourism, the arts, and an Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Perth, WA Labor’s Indigenous platform was wide-ranging.
Announcing Mining and Pastoral Region incumbent Stephen Dawson as the new Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Premier Mark McGowan and his new Cabinet must now deliver on the promises made to First Nations people across the State.
The overall swing of WA to the left with Labor signifies a likely strengthening of the relationship with the Indigenous community, as Labor has historically been more sympathetic to First Nations issues.
This election also brought with it an opportunity for WA to maintain its Indigenous representation in the State Parliament.
While WA lost its two most notable Indigenous representatives in retiring treasurer and Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt and Kimberley MLA Josie Farrer, as well as now ex-Liberal leader Zak Kirkup who suffered a major loss in his seat of Dawesville, the State gained Divina D’Anna.
Receiving over 60 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, Ms D’Anna, beat Liberal contender and former Shire of Derby-West Kimberley president Geoff Haerewa.
Ms D’Anna will take over Ms Farrer’s place in the Kimberley, making it four consecutive Aboriginal representatives in the Kimberley seat since Ernie Bridge took on the seat in 1980, Carol Martin in 2001, and Ms Farrer in 2013.
A Yawuru, Nimanburr and Bardi woman, Ms D’Anna has spent her life advocating for Indigenous people across WA.
“It is an incredible privilege to be elected as the member for Kimberley.”
“It is a region and electorate that has a strong history of powerful Indigenous voices, including Carol Martin who was elected to the seat in 2001 becoming the first Indigenous woman elected to an Australian Parliament,” she said.
Ms D’Anna said she was committed to listening to the voices of Indigenous people throughout her electorate. She said her priorities would include crime, mental health and family and domestic violence.
“We need a holistic approach,” Ms D’Anna said.
“All of these issues are connected. I will advocate for collaboration of services to make sure the money the Government is providing to our community is being spent in helping people on the ground in a real and meaningful way.”
While there were a total 10 Indigenous candidates vying for a seat at the table, only Ms D’Anna was successful in claiming a spot in the Lower House. Broome local Rosetta Sahanna was successful in the Upper House for Labor.
Labor candidate Cherie Sibosado’s race in the North West Central electorate challenged Nationals incumbent Vince Catania, who has held the seat since 2008.
In a traditionally safe seat, the Nyikina and Bardi woman pushed Mr Catania all the way, in a race that was called for The Nationals WA several days after the election and saw an 8.3 per cent swing to Labor.
Not only did the Labor landslide across the State give Mr McGowan personal popularity but the WA Liberals were left reeling with just two seats and the loss of Opposition status to the Nationals.
The re-election of a McGowan Government keeps WA on a path of policy and leadership continuity, with several promises to the Indigenous community left to be met.
By Aaron Bloch