Black bush ballot ushers in new era in NT

Black bush ballot ushers in new era in NT

Tuesday, August 28

Both major political parties can no longer ignore Aboriginal voters in the Northern Territory following Saturday's historic election, the Chairman of the nation's largest Aboriginal member-based organisation said today.

Chair of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), Stephen Ryan, said the poll could foreshadow deep discontent over federal Labor's decision to extend the NT intervention for ten years - at the next federal election.

"The NT election result is the first in Australian history where Aboriginal voters have had the deciding vote in the next government," Chairman Ryan said today.

"Aboriginal people are now no longer political footballs. They are genuine playmakers.

"They've sent a clear message to NT Labor - that they've made a big mistake in concentrating on the electorates of Darwin at the expense of Aboriginal need in the bush.

"And they've also shown the CLP that they're now a powerful political force. They can no longer be ignored."

Chairman Ryan said it looked like local issues had played a major factor in these elections.

"Issues like the amalgamation of councils into 'super shires', the controversial Growth Towns policy, health, housing and education were all obvious causes of discontent.

"The fact two very prominent Aboriginal supporters of the intervention were voted into bush seats could show that Aboriginal voters in these electorates were far more concerned about local issues," Chairman Ryan said.

"At a federal level, these communities have already voiced their opposition to the intervention, proven by the large swings in remote booths against sitting Labor MP, Warren Snowdon."

Mr Snowdon's electorate of Lingiari takes in the majority of prescribed communities under the intervention.

Meanwhile, Chairman Ryan welcomed a fresh start in the Territory, but urged the bush vote to keep the CLP accountable.

"Aboriginal people have made their voices very clear indeed. The CLP now have a genuine chance to re-set relations and truly engage with the first peoples of the NT.

"They must be kept to account on their promises to Aboriginal people though. We've all seen first hand what can happen if they don't."