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First Australian Aboriginal MP elected for Liberals

Ken Wyatt was elected as the Liberal representative for the seat of Hasluck

(KATAKAMI / BBC) — An Aboriginal Australian has been elected to parliament for the first time in the country’s history.

Ken Wyatt, 57, an expert on Aboriginal health, 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 the racist hate mail he received, saying it was time for Australia to move forward.

Historic moment

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.”

“Start Quote

Let’s move on from that [racism] – what’s more important is the way in which we move Australia forward, ”

End Quote Ken Wyatt Newly elected Aboriginal MP

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.”

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