Among the newly elected politicians congregating for the first time today at Parliament House were Australia’s first Muslim MP, its youngest-ever at 20 years old and the first Aboriginal in the House of Representatives.
The new arrivals came to the capital Canberra today for their first meetings with party leaders and colleagues since August 21 elections.
The polls failed to deliver a clear majority for any party for the first time in 70 years, but the centre-left Labour Party formed a minority government with the support of four outside politicians.
Labour’s Ed Husic, a former union leader from a Bosnian family, is the first Muslim parliamentarian in the country’s 109-year history.
While he did not campaign on his religion, his conservative Liberal Party opponent David Barker targeted him as a “strong Muslim” and urged Christian church leaders to back the Liberal campaign.
The Liberals dumped Mr Barker as their candidate a month before the election after national media reported his anti-Muslim views.
Aboriginal politician Ken Wyatt walked into his Liberal Party meeting today alongside university student Wyatt Roy, 20, who was elected in the first federal elections in which he was old enough to vote.
Mr Wyatt is the first Aborigine to serve in the House of Representatives, although two Aborigines previously served in the Senate. Neville Bonner served in the Senate from 1971 to 1983, and Aden Ridgeway served from 1999 to 2005.
Mr Wyatt, a 58-year-old former school teacher who won his seat in one the closest contests of the election, said he received racist hate mail since the election, some from people who said they would not have voted for him if they had known he was indigenous. But he does not plan to focus on the messages too much.
“I’m humbled and privileged to represent people in Hasluck,” Mr Wyatt told reporters outside Parliament House, referring to his electoral division.
“As an indigenous Australian, it’s great to be walking into the House of Reps,” he added.
Mr Roy, who is studying political science, said he was nervous to be in parliament.
“But I’m looking forward to getting started,” he said.