Chansey Paech, Labor MLA for Namaitjira, has been elected as the Speaker of the Northern Territory Parliament – the first Indigenous and openly gay Speaker of an Australian Parliament.
“Madam Speaker, I am young, I am gay, I am black, a true blue Territorian. I am a Centralian man, I am the nation’s first openly gay, Indigenous parliamentarian. I am eternally proud of who I am and where I come from, I own it and wear it with pride… I look forward to the day when this country will recognise my rights as equal rights, when I too can marry in my country, on my country, as a recognised first Australian,” Paech had said in his first speech in the NT Parliament in 2016.
On Wednesday following his election, Paech celebrated the fact that the Northern Territory had also elected Ngaree Ah Kit as deputy speaker. “The Northern Territory has many things to be proud of and today we add to that list! We’re officially the first parliament in Australia to have an Aboriginal Speaker and Deputy Speaker,” Paech tweeted.
The Northern Territory has many things to be proud of and today we add to that list! We’re officially the first parliament in Australia to have an Aboriginal Speaker and Deputy Speaker. #territoryproud #firstnations #parliament @LegAssemblyNT #boundlesspossible @ngareeahkit pic.twitter.com/j048L5AFSW
— Chansey Paech MLA: Member for Gwoja (@chanseypaechMLA) June 24, 2020
Paech, the deputy speaker replaced outgoing speaker Kezia Purick, who resigned after being found indulging in corrupt conduct by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.
Paech, grew up in Alice Springs and is of Aranda and Gurindji descent. Before being elected to the NT Parliament, Paech was an LGBTQI activist. Since his election, he was part of the push for the NT government to apologise for the past discrimination and prosecution of LGBTQI persons and change the law to allow adoptions by same sex couples.
“It’s always been really empowering to see the way that central Australians have come together and supported, members of the LGBTQI community, you know, as I said I’m a country boy I come from a central Australia, and have a very inclusive and supportive community, but I do acknowledge that there have been a number of people right across the Northern Territory, who have experienced cases of homophobia or discrimination based on on sexuality so making recent progress with same sex adoption, marriage equality and just this week, being able to introduce legislation into the parliament to expunge convictions based on a homosexual prejudice has been really, really exciting and I’ve been very proud to be part of that, Paech said in a ABC Radio interview.
In the same interview, Paech, reflected back some decades ago, to when his sexuality would have meant that he would have been treated as a criminal.
“If I was, as I am now 30 years ago, I wouldn’t be in Parliament because you know, living my lifestyle would be considered to be a crime. So we need to acknowledge the impact that it’s had on a range of people, and the barriers that it’s caused and making sure that that legislation has been repealed. Making sure though that future legislation and legislation that’s currently in place is reviewed to take out discriminatory language,” Paech had said.
In 2016, he had called on the Northern Territory to legalise adoptions by same sex couples. Northern Territory was the only jurisdiction in Australia that had still had laws allowing only married heterosexual couples or those in traditional Aboriginal marriages to adopt.
“(I) desire to see the day when people like myself, a gay person, are entitled to adopt children who need a loving home and family unit,” Paech had said in Parliament. In 2018, the Northern Territory finally joined the rest of Australia to allow same sex couples and couples to adopt.