First Aboriginal Woman in Senate Won Gold for Australia

Jason Scott – Bloomberg – Tuesday, 25 March 2014 (originally published 19 Mar)

Nova Peris shakes hands with Tony Abbott
Nova Peris, center, presents Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with a fighting boomerang at the opening of the 44th Parliament in Canberra. Image: Mark Graham/AFP/Getty Images

It’s Christmas Eve, and a three-year-old girl lies in her grandmother’s arms. It’s not a silent night — Nova Peris is listening to the howl of a tropical cyclone ripping apart her home.

“My first memory is of being absolutely terrified,” said Peris of that night in 1974 when Cyclone Tracy ravaged Darwin, destroying 70 percent of the remote north Australian city and killing 65 people. “I still have the teddy bear I was holding. It’s a reminder of how I survived.”

Nearly four decades later Peris, 43, was caught up in a different storm. Then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered her the chance to become the first female Aboriginal member of the federal parliament, ordering an incumbent senator to stand aside so Peris, who battled poverty and racist taunts on the path to becoming an Olympic Games champion, could run . . .

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