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Linda spent the first 10 years of her life here in Australia living as a non-citizen.
As a little girl at school, she was taught – in her words – that she was descended from people who were ‘as close to Stone Age as possible’.
She wasn’t counted in the Commonwealth census until the age of 14.
But imagine from today, from that background, her portrait will hang on the wall of the Commonwealth Parliament for as long as we have a Commonwealth Parliament.
But what is noteworthy I suggest to you is the journey between those two points and it is Linda’s story to tell. It’s a story of personal resilience, extraordinary resolve, a fighting spirit worthy of the character of the great Wiradjuri people.
But when I look at the portrait, I will see simply a story of hope. It is the hope that I’ve also witnessed in the eyes of First Nations children, when Linda explains to them she’s a shadow minister, a politician, a parliamentarian.
The hope this portrait will offer to all of the schoolchildren who visit our nation’s capital and our nation’s parliament, who will pass through the space her portrait occupies.
I also think the story behind this portrait carries a lesson for all Australia.
It speaks a broader truth of the self-defeating folly of discrimination.
The fact it has taken 119 years to unveil a portrait of an Aboriginal woman as a member of parliament is embarrassing.
But the portrait will remind us that we are all – whoever we are and whatever our circumstances – that we are all collectively diminished by racism and prejudice.”