At a Sorry Day event in Darwin today, Peris spoke publicly for the first time following her announcement on Tuesday that she would not be contesting her safe Senate seat for the Labor Party, a decision that has surprised many.
“Three years ago I walked into parliament as the first Aboriginal woman, and until you are an Aboriginal person do not criticise me for the decisions I have made. This isn’t easy, it’s hard,” she told reporters.
She said she was leaving politics on her own terms.
“I want to make this clear, no one should judge me. I’m a (proud) inherited Aboriginal woman with strength and resilience… It’s not easy to wake up every morning and bounce out of bed and pretend that life’s fantastic, because it isn’t,” Peris said.
“Aboriginal people have no inherited wealth, they have inherited pain.”
She said she hoped her decision to focus on her children would be respected, and hoped that she had inspired indigenous people and young Australians to strive for more.
As the first female Aboriginal member of federal parliament she had broken ground for Labor “in my own backyard” of the Northern Territory.
She thanked Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Lingiari MP Warren Snowdon and Senator Pat Dodson, and said they would achieve the vision of indigenous people.
“I want to acknowledge the work of the Australian Labor Party for the work they have done in trying to elevate and empower the lives of Aboriginal people, but that will not stop until Aboriginal people are treated as equals in this country,” Peris said.
Shorten said Labor had been lucky to have her “energy and commitment” in the senate for the last three years and that she had the party’s full blessing.
Her accomplishments were not diminished by the departure, he said, pointing out that 25 other politicians had announced their retirement in the past few weeks.
“I rate her, she’s a top human being,” he said.
“I think it takes a great deal of personal dignity to know when you think it’s time to finish one part of your career and do other things.”
Shorten also applauded her decision to look after her family.
“The fact that she is prioritising her family at this point in her life reflects another attribute she is too modest to say. But I want to put on the record, I reckon Nova Peris is a great mum as well,” he said.
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