Former international sports star Nova Peris has been placed at the head of Labor’s Senate ticket in the Northern Territory in a move set to make her the first female indigenous federal parliamentarian.
Ms Peris has also become the first indigenous Australian of either gender to be pre-selected by the ALP for a winnable national seat.
”I want to thank the Prime Minister and the ALP executive,’’ Ms Peris told reporters in Darwin on Tuesday.
Her nomination for the safe seat means the end of a 15-year career for the Territory’s incumbent Left-aligned senator, Trish Crossin.
Ms Peris said she was a “proud Territorian” who dreamed big.
“I’ve been a single mother; I’ve lived in housing commission homes and I understand what the average Australian has been up against,” she said.
Ms Peris described the past week as “challenging” and tough, with “hurtful” personal attacks, but she had been constantly encouraged by her friends and family.
“I am Nova Peris. Being the best Nova Peris is all I’ve ever aspired to be. I’m not perfect; I’ve made mistakes. But I’ll try to pursue excellence at all times.”
Ms Peris said there had been a lot of focus on the process by which she had been selected to run on Labor’s Northern Territory Senate ticket.
But Ms Peris said she had been approached by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. She said she wouldn’t say ”no” to a tap by the Prime Minister.
As expected, the former Olympian was overwhelmingly endorsed after being hand-picked by Julia Gillard and waved through the credentialling process to facilitate her meteoric rise.
The national executive vote was 19 to 2 in favour of Peris despite serious resistance to the idea from sections of the Left faction especially in Victoria, NSW, and Tasmania.
While Ms Gillard hopes to rebuild Labor’s flagging vote in the Territory, particularly among indigenous voters, the selection of Ms Peris from outside the party has angered many Territorians and risks back-firing.
One senior party member told Fairfax Media that ALP members were outraged at the treatment of Senator Crossin.
He said the drafting of Ms Peris ignored alternative indigenous candidates from within the ALP and ”smacked of tokenism” which Aboriginal voters would see straight through.
Senator Crossin is expected to address the media this afternoon from Darwin.
Ms Peris said that she had a lot of work to do over the next two weeks, getting local ALP members on side.
“I think quite often, a lot of people, especially Indigenous people have said ‘oh what has she done?’ I go about my business. I don’t seek media attention for the stuff that I’ve done …. It’s never been about media. It’s being about getting results for the Aboriginal people.”
But the new Labor candidate said she had no ideas where a whispering campaign against her had started.
“I’ve got no idea, I can’t answer that question. I don’t know.”
Ms Peris said she viewed the former government’s intervention into Northern Territory communities as a failed policy.
“I’ve seen how policies have come about and I’ve seen failed policies and I’ve seen billions of dollars just get wasted down the drain,” she said.
“I’m in a position now that I can talk to people and saw what is it that you want?”
With Judith Ireland, Daniel Hurst
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.