Lingiari grandson forms Aboriginal political party

Michael Coggan ABC News December 02 2010

The First Nations Political Party is set to be registered by the Australian Electoral Commission. (

AUDIO Audio file  From little things, political parties grow
(ABC - AM) Presented by Tony Easley

A descendant of the Aboriginal stockman who led the protest strike credited with giving birth to the land rights movement is about to realise a long-held dream to establish an Aboriginal political party.

The Australian Electoral Commission is expected to officially register the First Nations Political Party next month.

The soon-to-be president of the party, Maurie Japarta Ryan, says its formation is the culmination of more than 30 years of contemplation and activism.

The son of an Aboriginal woman and an Irishman, Mr Ryan has been talking about forming an Indigenous political party since he was employed as a teacher at a school in the remote Top End community of Kalkaringi 30 years ago.

"You can have advisory bodies like ATSIC, this commission coming on," he said.

"[They] are just rubber stamps to me. They are like puppets to puppet masters.

"But a political party has more clout."

Australian Electoral Commission ads have been published in newspapers around the country notifying of the intended registration of the First Nations Political Party.

Mr Ryan says there are about 2,000 members in Western Australia and 500 in the Northern Territory and the party has established a constitution and a website.

"We have our own new flag that we've done and we have a seal," he said.

"We're talking about representation. See, countries have flags, Australia has the Union Jack ... and we also have the Aboriginal flag.

"But this is a flag of a political party."

Mr Ryan describes stockman Vincent Lingiari, the man who led the Wave Hill walk off, as his grandfather.

The former Labor party member still holds Gough Whitlam in high esteem for pouring sand into the hand of Mr Lingiari - an iconic moment in the Aboriginal land rights movement.

"There were two great men at that time, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser," he said.

"I think he got cut off before his prime, Gough Whitlam.

"I love and admire him like my people do, same as Malcolm Fraser."

Former Territory Labor politician Ken Parish says the First Nations Political Party has the potential to take votes away from the ALP in the next Territory election in 2012.

"The federal election just passed indicated a significant level of disenchantment with Labor member Warren Snowdon in the seat of Lingiari," Mr Parish said.

"Around a third of the mobile polling booths from memory recorded a very large swing against Snowdon, to the point where if that sort of result was repeated in a Territory election, potentially you would get seats falling to a new Aboriginal party."


First Nations party 'could become kingmakers'

Tom Nightingale ABC News 03 December, 2010

A Charles Darwin University political analyst is forecasting a proposed Indigenous political party could attract 20 per cent of the votes in Central Australia.

A Gurindji elder is hoping to launch the First Nations Political Party next year, and this week the Australian Electoral Commission has begun advertising the proposal.

Professor Rolf Gerritsen says Central Australia could be the party's biggest support base in the country.

He says its preferences would determine the outcome of federal and Territory seats if it attracted 20 per cent of the vote.

"It would very much depend upon if they'd decide to preference, and if so who'd they decide preference," he said.

"In their first election, I suspect they'd be the kingmakers for [the electorates of] Lingiari, or for MacDonnell or Stuart."

But he says the new party will need to address several challenges once it is registered.

"Its problems will be institutional rather than getting a lack of support," he said.

"Because the way electoral funding is dished out, it's dished out for the previous election, so parties entering the system don't have money for the next election.

"There's another institutional problem in that a lot of Aboriginal people are disaffected within the political system."

Comment viewing options

Enter the characters shown in the image.
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.