First Indigenous Representative to Sit in Commonwealth Parliament - Neville Bonner
Date of Record: 1971
In 1971 he became the first Aboriginal person to sit in the Commonwealth parliament when he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the Senate caused by the resignation of a Liberal senator for Queensland. He was subsequently returned at elections held in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1980.
Neville Bonner became a well-known parliamentary figure during his years as a senator. He was never a serious contender for a place in the ministry of the McMahon (1971-72) or Fraser (1975-83) governments. However he was a respected commentator on Indigenous issues and served on numerous Senate and Parliamentary Committees. He also served as the parliamentary representative on the Council of the then Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (now the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies).
Dropped from one of the winnable positions on the Liberal Party ticket for the 1983 Senate election, Bonner resigned from the Party and contested the election as an independent. He narrowly missed retaining his seat. Neville Bonner continued to be a strong advocate for Indigenous rights until his death in 1999.