INDIGENOUS Australians must take matters into their own hands if they want to see more Aborigines in Parliament, according to the first Aborigine to win a seat in the House of Representatives.
Ken Wyatt claimed victory in the marginal West Australian seat of Hasluck yesterday, amid revelations he was subjected to racist taunts during the election campaign.
Mr Wyatt said the taunts had come in the form of phone calls to his campaign office, as verbal taunts on the streets and as messages on news websites.
He said they had come from both white and Aboriginal people, some accusing him of selling out his cultural heritage by joining the Liberal Party.
Mr Wyatt, who has Aboriginal, Indian and English blood, said he was disappointed by the taunts but not deterred.
''There will be people who have differences of opinion, which I don't mind in terms of a political difference, but when it gets down to some very pointed comments on some of the websites, that hurts because it means others are also reading those and feeling equal pain because they thought things had moved on,'' he said.
Mr Wyatt's Aboriginal background attracted significant media attention during the campaign, but he was adamant it was not a crucial factor in his win over Labor incumbent Sharryn Jackson, despite Hasluck being home to around 4000 indigenous people.
''In 50 years' time historians and people will be analysing why Hasluck chose an indigenous candidate and what they will discover is they didn't choose an indigenous candidate because I was indigenous, they chose a person they believe will represent the interests of everybody within Hasluck,'' he said.
Aboriginal voters are traditionally more aligned with the Labor Party, but Mr Wyatt has said he was attracted to the conservatives because during his career as a bureaucrat working in Aboriginal health and education, he noticed funding for indigenous programs rose under Liberal and often fell under Labor governments.
When asked if he was surprised it had taken so long for an Aborigine to win a seat in the green chamber, Mr Wyatt said Aboriginal people had to make change happen for themselves.
''We can't take a notion that somebody is going to come up and tap us on the shoulder and say stand; you've got take a personal stand, nominate and go through the process of being preselected,'' he said.
''I came from a life of poverty but through my own individual efforts I stand now within the national arena and I will bring my knowledge, wisdom and skills to all the people of Hasluck.''
Despite Mr Wyatt claiming the seat yesterday, with a lead of almost 1000 votes, there was no official concession from the Labor Party, and a full recount could yet occur. Labor's WA state secretary Simon Mead could not be contacted last night.