Northern Territory MP Chansey Paech has become the first openly gay Indigenous speaker of an Australianparliament in a landmark move.
Paech took over the role of speaker from Kezia Purick, who resigned earlier this week after an independent report alleged corrupt practices.
A Labor Party MP for Namatjira, Paech was previously deputy speaker in the parliament before his appointment this week.
He told ABC News that it was an honour to be elected speaker, which is the parliament’s most senior role.
Aboriginal Speaker Chansey Paech says his appointment sends ‘a strong message’ to young people.
“It sends a strong message for our young kids, growing up, you have to believe in yourself and know that these are options for you in the future.”
Another Aboriginal MP, Ngaree Ah Kit, has been elected as deputy speaker of the parliament – which makes it the first time in history two Indigenous people have held the senior positions in a parliament.
It sends a strong message for our young kids, growing up, you have to believe in yourself and know that these are options for you in the future.
Tweeting about the milestone, Paech said: “The Northern Territory has many things to be proud of and today we add to that list! We’re officially the first parliament in Australia to have an Aboriginal speaker and deputy speaker.”
Getting to this point was no easy feat for the politician. Following his election in 2016, Paech told Buzzfeed that he faced smear campaigns from opponents who tried to convince Aboriginal voters to not support him because of his sexuality.
Voters did not respond well to a smear campaign based on his sexuality.
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“That kind of language the electorate didn’t respond well to.
“The most beautiful thing was when I was at a remote community [campaigning] and people said to me, ‘They said you were a gay and we said we didn’t care, we just want houses,’”
“I will stand proud with my Labor colleagues across our vast lands to ensure that all Territorians have equality and that we reach a time when our first Australians are constitutionally recognised,” he said.
Following his election in 2016, Paech delivered a rousing speech in parliament calling for equality for all.
“I am eternally proud of who I am and where I come from. I own it and wear it with pride,” he said at the time.