By JR on Wednesday, September 28, 2011
"Coconut" is a very offensive racial slur to blacks. The cause is a dispute between the Greens and the miners, with the Aborigines on the side of the miners
THE first indigenous woman elected to any Australian parliament will today announce her resignation after being vilified as a "toxic coconut" over her support for Woodside's contentious $30 billion gas hub proposal near the West Australian resort town of Broome.
Labor MP Carol Martin, 54, yesterday told the party's West Australian leader, Eric Ripper, she would not contest the next election in March 2013.
She was elected to the seat of Kimberley in 2001 after the resignation of Ernie Bridge, the Labor-turned-independent country music star who was the first indigenous Australian to become a cabinet minister.
Ms Martin has repeatedly urged opponents of the Woodside development to respect the Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr people's right to do a deal with the company for the gas hub. In June, they voted 60-40 in favour.
Ms Martin's position put her at odds with members of her own extended family, and in a town of vociferous anti-gas sentiment it was widely speculated she could lose her seat over her stand.
The dispute over the gas hub has created ugly tensions in a community that prides itself on being laid-back. Ms Martin was named last week in an anonymous 10-page newsletter as "brown on the outside and full of the milk of white man's money" on the inside for not opposing the proposed gas hub.
Her name appeared on a list of nine Kimberley Aborigines, including former Australian of the year Patrick Dodson, under the heading "toxic coconuts".
Ms Martin said it was the worst slur against her in public life, and she would sue the authors if they could be identified.
The Nationals hope to win the seat of Kimberley from Labor at the next election after gaining popularity in the region through the big-spending Royalties for Regions program, under which the government promises to spend 25 per cent of mining and onshore petroleum royalties in the bush. In the Kimberley, that has included $220 million for the expansion of the irrigation area outside Kununurra.
Ms Martin told The Australian yesterday it had been a privilege to serve the people of the Kimberley, but she said she was tired of the travel between Broome and Perth, a distance of almost 2300km, and no longer wanted to be separated from her husband, Brian, for long periods. "I actually like my husband," she said.
Ms Martin said the attacks on her had been wearing. "I feel that after three terms it is time to move on, and things like that shit from last week I just don't want to put up with any more," she said.
Ms Martin is a Noongar, the Aboriginal people of the state's southwest. She lived in foster care from the age of 12 and repeatedly ran away. At 15, she went to live with her mother and siblings in Broome.
In the Kimberley, Ms Martin became a social worker and served in local government.
Her views have sometimes clashed with popular feelings. In 2009, she expressed doubts about alcohol restrictions in the towns of Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, where fetal alcohol spectrum disorder was rampant. "I'm a social worker in my real life," she said. "I know prohibition doesn't work, has never worked historically, and if you're going to deal with addictions, you deal with addictions."
Ms Martin said she would continue to strongly represent the interests of the Kimberley until the next election.
In her maiden speech, Ms Martin said she hoped she could be an example to others. "I cannot help but feel a slight touch of disbelief it has taken so long for a person like me to get here," she told the parliament.