First Australian Aboriginal in House of Representatives
- 29 August 2010
- From the section Asia-Pacific
An Aboriginal man has won a seat in Australia's House of Representatives, becoming the first indigenous person to do so in the country's history.
Ken Wyatt, 57, took the seat of Hasluck in Western Australia for the centre-right Liberal Party.
Neither the Liberals nor the governing Labor Party gained enough seats at last week's election for a majority.
Mr Wyatt has dismissed racist hate mail he has received, saying it was time for Australia to move forward.
As counting closed, Mr Wyatt declared victory with a majority of nearly 1,000 votes over his rival from the centre-left Labor Party, with fewer than 1,000 votes still to be counted.
"In 50 years' time historians and people will be analysing why Hasluck chose an indigenous candidate, and what they'll discover is that they didn't choose an indigenous candidate because I was indigenous," Mr Wyatt told reporters on Sunday.
"They chose a person who they believed would represent the interests of everybody within Hasluck."
The Liberals have 73 seats while the centre-left Labor Party have 72. Independents took four seats, and the Greens one. Seventy-six seats are needed in order to form a government.
Negotiations between the two main parties and the independents who hold the balance of power are continuing.
Mr Wyatt said he was disappointed by the hate mail sent to him by people who said they would not have voted for him if they had known he was indigenous.
"I've had that all my life, growing up as an Aboriginal in the '60s, the '70s and the '80s," he told reporters.
"Let's move on from that - what's more important is the way in which we move Australia forward, and the thinking that we have, and the society that we build on."
Mr Wyatt is the first Aboriginal man elected to the House of Representatives but two other indigenous Australians have served as senators in the upper house of parliament.
Neville Bonner, who died in 1999, was first appointed to the senate in 1971 to fill a casual vacancy but went on to win four elections in his own right.
And Aden Ridgeway represented New South Wales in the senate from 1999 to 2005.