This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Linda Burney Says She Won't Be Stereotyped Or Pigeon-Holed In Maiden Speech

Burney is the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Linda Burney already made a crack in the glass ceiling by becoming the first indigenous woman to be elected to the House of Representatives but on Wednesday the new MP smashed it with a pretty powerful maiden speech.

After being sung into Parliament (which you can watch below) by her Wiradjuri sister Lynette Riley, Burney said she would not be pigeon-holed or stereotyped in her new position.

"In truth, I come to this place not only through my own labour. I have travelled paths blazed by those before me, and resting on the shoulders around me," Burney told the chamber on Tuesday afternoon.

"The aboriginal part of my story is important, it is the core of who I am. But I will not be stereotyped and I will not be pigeonholed."

Burney recalled growing up as a freshwater kid swimming in irrigation water with yabbies and red-belly black snakes. She was born during a time "when a white woman having an aboriginal baby was shocking" and "when the Australian government knew how many sheep there were but not how many aboriginal people."

Inviting the parliament to imagine being a 13-year-old and told at school their ancestors were the closest thing to stone-age men, Burney said the chamber felt a long way from that time.

"The power of racism and exclusion were not things you could see but you certainly felt them," Burney said.

The member for Barton acknowledged the irony of holding a seat which was named after former prime minister Edmund Barton who introduced the white Australia party.

Burney reflected on the apology to indigenous Australians make in 2008 under the Rudd government, which remains a constant reminder to the power of her position.

"As the words rang out across this chamber, this land and around the world - 'for this we are sorry' - the country cried and began to breathe again," Burney said.

Promising to be respectful, gentle and polite in Parliament Burney joked "that the last bit may not always apply in question time."

The member for Barton said reducing the rate of domestic violence, juvenile imprisonment and improving education through Australia remain at the top of her to-do list in the new job.

Burney, who was Deputy Labor leader of the New South Wales Labor party, has a strong background in child protection, education, fair trading and aboriginal affairs.

And the first Indigenous woman elected to the Federal House of Representatives had a message to young indigenous girls.

"If I can stand in this place, so can they. Never let anyone tell you, you are limited by anything."

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact