NSWTOx Indigenous

A blog to share information & resources for Outreachers developing & delivering services & programs for Australian Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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Thursday, April 5

Aboriginal MP Made for the Ministry

An article from the Age speculating on Linda Burney's ministerial possibilities.
By Ean Higgins dated March 27, 2007

When you look at Linda Burney's curriculum vitae, you'd think she must have lived five lives, given the range of things she's done.
At 50, she has been a teacher, worked in education policy and curriculum development, run a state government department and sat on numerous boards ranging from SBS to resources management. And she also has UN experience.

Now she has secured her second term as the NSW state MP for the safe Labor seat of Canterbury, in Sydney's southwest.

Along the way, she has been married twice, had two children, and become a widow after her husband, rural activist Rick Farley, died last year following a stroke.

Now the word is that Premier Morris Iemma has his eye on Ms Burney for a ministerial portfolio, making her the first acknowledged Aboriginal to become a NSW minister. A source within her Left faction said it was a "lay-down misere" she would be put on the factional ticket.

The immediate expectation, since Ms Burney is Aboriginal and was secretary of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs, is that she would be made Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. But it is a suggestion Ms Burney thinks involves stereotyping.

"There's an assumption, especially in the media, that if you are Aboriginal, all you know is about issues regarding Aboriginality," she told The Australian yesterday.

"I pay a mortgage, I have kids who have been sick, I have sat in the emergency ward, I'm a woman, I'm a feminist, and I shop in the supermarket. As for being Aboriginal, it's a kind of extra privilege."

Ms Burney would not comment on her prospects for a ministry, except to say that "there have been various suggestions that I would be a worthwhile candidate, and it would be an honour to serve in that role".

"But I believe in the expression that you count a chicken when it's hatched," she said.

It is understood Ms Burney would prefer a portfolio outside Aboriginal Affairs, to avoid being type-cast in that role, and also because it would place unduly high community expectations on her because of her Aboriginality. The Premier is understood to agree.

She would probably be a well-qualified education minister, but that job will go, in this round at least, to a more experienced candidate.

There is, however, another portfolio vacant that might suit her: a new ministry Mr Iemma announced during the election campaign of Environment, Water and Climate Change. There's no incumbent, since environment minister Bob Debus has retired.

Whatever NSW portfolio Ms Burney gets, she will also have a national profile: she will soon become ALP federal vice-president, and president from 2009.