Aboriginal MP tells of grief
New Kimberley MP Josie Farrer has told State Parliament of the pain of her 16-year-old grandson’s suicide in a speech that also revealed the racism she had to overcome to win her seat.
At times addressing the Legislative Assembly in Gidja, a Kimberley language believed to have never been read on to the parliamentary record before, Ms Farrer also spoke strongly in favour of Aboriginal participation in the economy.
Ms Farrer, the third indigenous Labor member for the Kimberley after the late Ernie Bridge and Carol Martin, said Parliament should spend more time debating solutions to Kimberley youth suicide than the new stadium or Elizabeth Quay.
“No one who has not suffered this type of grief and loss can understand the very real pain a family goes through when someone who is dearly loved takes their own life,” she said.
“For me still, there has been no adequate closure. No help in finding answers and no support outside my family and culture.
“And I am not alone.”
Ms Farrer revealed that during the Labor preselection process “it was suggested that I had no idea what Parliament was like”.
“I was growled at on the main street of Halls Creek and yelled at: ‘Do you understand that you will have to turn up to work every day?’
“I served the Halls Creek community as a shire councillor for 16 years – seven years as shire president, so why did this person think I could be treated this way?
“I can only assume it’s because I’m black and most of all, I’m a black woman.
“Here I am proudly elected, proudly black and proudly strong.”
Ms Farrer, who took a neutral stand on the debate over the proposed James Price Point gas hub before the election, explained that as a traditional woman she could not speak for that land because it was not her country.
But she said the traditional owners “considered long and hard” their customs, culture and environment before signing an indigenous land use agreement with lead proponent Woodside and the State Government.
“Aboriginal people have a right to participate in the real economy,” she said. “Only through this will we gain self-determination.
“We know what we want and we don’t need privileged people preaching to us.”
If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, call Lifeline WA on 13 11 14.