On May 22, WA’s first ever Aboriginal Legislative Council member Rosetta Sahanna took on the task of representing the Mining and Pastoral Region.
The Wilinggin woman never expected to win her seat; at fourth on the ticket for Labor in a seat that is usually evenly split between the major parties, the unprecedented March election took everyone, including Ms Sahanna, by surprise.
“I was No. 4 on that ticket,” she said.
“I had convinced myself there was no way I was getting in, then as the results came in I started getting calls from people and I was just sitting there like a stunned mullet.”
For the past 10 years, the six Mining and Pastoral Region Upper House seats have been evenly split between Labor, Liberal, Greens and Nationals members. At the March election that decimated the WA Liberals, Labor romped in.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson, Kyle McGinn and Peter Foster accompanying Ms Sahanna took four of the six seats. The Daylight Saving Party’s Wilson Tucker took another of the region’s seats and the Liberals’ Neil Thompson took the last.
For the past 30 years, Broome local Ms Sahanna has served at all levels in the Indigenous sector, starting in junior administrative roles and working her way up to chief executive.
Most recently Ms Sahanna served as operations manager at Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation, but she has also worked at the Kimberley Land Council, the Kimberley Stolen Generation Aboriginal Corporation and on the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council.
Ms Sahanna, a mother to two daughters and grandmother to four granddaughters, says she’s passionate about women’s issues. She says government must implement early intervention for children and families to stop dysfunction before children come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“I’ve been looking, listening, learning. I have lots of experience at a grassroots level. But now’s my time to contribute, to come to the front of the room,” she said.
By Sarah Smit