Ken Wyatt is the Minister for Indigenous Australians and a Liberal Party member of the Federal Parliament.
Prior to getting into politics, Wyatt worked within community roles in the fields of health and education, including as the District Director for the Swan Education District and the Director of Aboriginal Health in New South Wales and Western Australia. Wyatt was also heavily involved in the wider community through training and mentoring young people.
For his work, he received the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 1996. In 2000, Wyatt was again recognised for his work and was awarded a Centenary of Federation Medal for “his efforts and contribution to improving the quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and mainstream Australian society in education and health”.
Wyatt began his career in politics in 2010 as the Federal Member for Hasluck for the Liberal Party, becoming the first First Nations Member of the House of Representatives. His mother has both Noongar and Wongi bloodlines and his father was from the Yamatji people.
During his time in Parliament, Wyatt has held a variety of positions, including:
- Assistant Minister for Health from 2015 to 2016
- Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care from 2016 to 2017
- Minister for Aged Care from 2017 to 2018
- Minister for Indigenous Health from 2017 to 2019
- Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care from 2018 to 2019
- Minister for Indigenous Australians from 2019 to present
Wyatt is the first First Nations person to hold the position of Minister for Indigenous Australians, as well as the first First Nations person to sit in Cabinet.
Voice to Parliament
As the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Wyatt is pushing for a First Nations Voice to Parliament, although he does not believe it should be enshrined in the Constitution. In the past, he has said that changing the Constitution would require a referendum, and has pointed out that only eight out of 44 referendums in Australia’s history have been successful. On the issue, he said “if you fail on a question for constitutional referendum, it is never resurrected”.
Rather, Wyatt (and the Liberal Party) are looking towards legislating the Voice to Parliament. Legislating the Voice body would not mean a change in the Constitution, but rather would simply exist as legislation. Wyatt has previously said it is an “aspiration” for that bill to pass Parliament in this term of government. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, we’ve written about the Voice to Parliament in a previous newsletter.
Overall as a parliamentarian, Wyatt has maintained a relatively low profile. He increased the Liberal Party’s margin at the last election, and now holds his seat with a 5.4% margin.