There?s life after politics
By UTE SCHULENBERG
SENATOR Aden Ridgeway is only the second Aboriginal voice in Federal Parliament in the 200 years since white settlement of this country.
Although he lost his seat in the Senate following the October Federal election, he has not lost his desire to have his voice heard.
"I was somewhat surprised with the result, as I had hoped to serve at least two terms in the Parliament," Sen. Ridgeway said.
"I am not, however, disappointed with the result, it just means I have to reinvent myself outside public office."
Sen. Ridgeway was in Coffs Harbour this week and took time out to talk to the Coffs Coast Advocate about life before, during and after his term in the Senate, which finishes in July 2005.
Aden on the Democrats:
"I have been a member of the Democrats for 14 years.
"We have gone through a particularly turbulent time but the party will still be around for some years yet.
"People don't know what they have voted for, when they realise then they will change their minds."
Aden on his time in Parliament:
"I think I have made small gains in getting the wider community to look at issues such as health for indigenous Australians.
"We can't feel proud in this country when fellow Australians are dying earlier that people in Nepal, Bangladesh or Vietnam.
"We need to provide more resources for access to health services and also change the opportunities for Aboriginal people, otherwise we don't break the cycle.
"This current leadership is severely lacking in showing leadership on indigenous issues ? this is dere- liction by neglect."
Aden on the new National Indigenous Council:
"Even if I could have been offered a place, I would not have taken it up.
"While I have enormous respect for those who have been selected, it does raise the question of how effective the council will be in making serious decisions when it only meets four times a year."
Aden on the Federal Government's proposed mutual obligation agenda:
"I think this harks back to the bad old days of paternalism.
"It would seem that nothing has been learnt in all this time.
"The Government must be brave enough to intervene and try new things that will empower not disempower indigenous people.
"This is a simplistic solution, that comes off the coat-tails of the policy that removed children from communities.
"Christian benevolence was a failure in the past ? why would you return to that?"
Aden on his future ? corporate horizons:
"The corporate sector can provide leadership when it is not coming from other areas.
"It is vital that we start breaking down the glass ceiling that prevents indigenous people sitting on the boards of corporations.
"There are plenty of Aboriginal people in the public service but we need to be in the corporate sec- tor.
"I am looking at that ? but I am not focusing on one single thing.
"I think I need a diversified stage to give me the national profile to speak with moral authority on issues ? like Patrick Dodson and Noel Pearson."
Aden on his future ? cultural tourism:
"Indigenous communities have seriously under-performing economies.
"Cultural and eco tourism would be good ways to stimulate local economies as well as reviving the culture for the young.
"The jobs would have integrity and it is also a way to share the culture more broadly, which feeds into what shapes our national identity.
"The sacredness of our land is unique ? there's more to life here than Don Bradman."