Ken Wyatt is a man of many firsts. In the year 2010, he was the first Aboriginal elected to the House of Representatives. In 2016, Wyatt became the first Indigenous minister. This 2019 he’s the first of his people take on the position of Indigenous Affairs Minister, the first of his people to be welcomed into the Cabinet.
Pressing issues surround the role of Indigenous Affairs Minister. Wyatt will have to push for reforms in the constitution, respond to the alarming crisis of Indigenous youth suicides and take charge of a new agency for the Indigenous.
The newly appointed minister carries heavy responsibilities on his shoulders. Aside from these pressing issues, he needs to balance the interest of his party and his people which will prove difficult given the present political climate.
It isn’t as if Wyatt hasn’t been facing this balancing act prior to his appointment as minister. He is known for proudly displaying his culture during his time in the Parliament. This hasn’t put him in the best of terms with his predominantly white colleagues in the Coalition. Some of these colleagues have even argued against the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. Yet, for nine years Wyatt effectively performed his duties alongside them despite their differences.
Wyatt’s appointment as a minister is symbolic of how far the country has come when it comes to Indigenous relations.
Aboriginal organizations are hopeful that their voices will be heard this time. Particularly their request for a Voice to Parliament. In an open letter, National Congress CEO Gary Oliver writes, “Formal representation of our interests is not a blank cheque. The proposal for a Voice to Parliament was carefully considered. We know better than anyone how little power we have with only three percent of the population while also facing extreme social challenges, prejudice, and systemic racism.”
Thank you to the Prime Minister and the people of Australia for this honour – to become the first Aboriginal person to be Minister for Indigenous Australians. I am committed to honouring our people, our cultures, our shared heritage and all Australians. pic.twitter.com/Pd3gSeJ9dd
— Ken Wyatt (@KenWyattAM) May 29, 2019
Ken Wyatt has since thanked the Prime Minister and the Australian people through Twitter saying he is “committed to honouring our people, our cultures, our shared heritage and all Australians.”