Audio Marion Scrymgour on being the first female Indigenous member of parliament, 2008

TLF ID R10114

This is an edited sound recording of a Northern Territory politician, Marion Scrymgour (1960-), talking about becoming the first female Indigenous member of the NT Legislative Assembly. Scrymgour says that her 2001 election was a breakthrough for women, and particularly for Indigenous women. She says that before that election there was a prevailing view in the major political parties that only men were suitable for office, particularly for bush electorates. Scrymgour encourages Indigenous women to consider political careers. The recording was made in July 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • In 2001 Marion Scrymgour (1960-) became the first female Indigenous member of parliament in Australia, an important breakthrough for Indigenous women. Scrymgour's election, first as a minister and then as acting chief minister, was an encouragement to Indigenous women to seek high office. In the NT election of 2005 Scrymgour was re-elected and two more Indigenous women were elected. They were Barbara (now Malarndirri) McCarthy and Alison Anderson.
  • It is clear from this interview that Scrymgour regards her election as a breakthrough for all women in the NT, which in August 2008 had the highest proportion of women of any parliament in Australia. The Australian Labor Party was the surprise winner of the 2001 election, led by another woman, Clare Martin (1952-), who became the first female chief minister of the NT. By early 2009, eight of 25 members of parliament in the NT Assembly were women.
  • Scrymgour's electorate of Arafura is in the northern part of the NT, taking in the Tiwi Islands, the Cobourg Peninsula, Kakadu National Park and western Arnhem Land. It covers an area of more than 200,000 sq km. About three-quarters of the electorate is Indigenous. Scrymgour comfortably won the seat in 2001. She retained the seat in 2005 with 2,137 votes after preferences, out of a total of 3,053 votes.
  • Scrymgour's election took place more than 25 years after the first Indigenous man - Hyacinth Tungutalum - was elected to the first NT Assembly in 1974. During that 25-year period, only five more Indigenous men were elected to the Assembly. All Indigenous people in the NT, men and women, were seriously under-represented. In the 2005 elections five Indigenous members were elected, three women and two men.
  • Because NT cabinets are relatively small, ministers commonly hold several portfolios simultaneously. Scrymgour had held a number of portfolios from 2003 until 2008 when this recording was made. These included responsibilities for family and community services, Aboriginal affairs, the environment and heritage, employment, education and child protection. In November 2007 she was made deputy chief minister.
  • Scrymgour has been one of Australia's most successful female Indigenous politicians. She was elected to the NT Legislative Assembly as a representative of the Australian Labor Party. In 2003 she became Australia's first female Indigenous cabinet minister, and in 2008 her brief role as acting chief minister made her the first Indigenous woman to lead a state or territory government.

Other details

  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
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  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
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  • Remarks: Copyright Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Content provider
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 2008
  • Name: Marion Scrymgour
  • Remarks: speaker
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  • Sound
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.