First Aboriginal woman to be elected into Australian House of Representatives – Barton (ALP) 2016 to present.
First Aboriginal person to be elected a Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly – Canterbury (ALP) 2003 to 2016.
Linda Burney was born in 1957 in the small town of Whitton in the Riverina. Separated from her mother as a baby, she was raised by her loving non Indigenous great aunt and uncle. Burney has said if it wasn’t for these caring relatives, she would have been placed in institutional care.
Her life story is compelling; her extraordinary fighting spirit led her, as a young adult, to discover her Aboriginal identity and rich heritage. A proud Wiradjuri woman, she has become inextricably linked with the Aboriginal movement across Australia.
In her first speech in the House of Representatives in 2016, Burney said “I was born at a time when a white woman having an Aboriginal baby was shocking – and doubly so if that woman was not married. I was born at a time when the Australian government knew how many sheep there were but not how many Aboriginal people. I was 10 years old before the ‘67 referendum fixed that.”
Holding a kangaroo cloak, Burney proudly said: “This cloak tells my story. It charts my life. On it is my totem, the goanna, and my personal totem, the white cockatoo – a message bird and very noisy. I intend to bring the fighting Wiradjuri to this place”.
Burney’s life experiences, threaded with great personal loss and tragedy, have led her to advocate for education, health services and social justice. They have spurred her on to champion the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders and fight for her people’s representation in discussions and decision-making processes.