Ngunnawal elder Aunty Violet Sheridan says she’s considering running as an independent in the upcoming ACT election, but the announcement has seen tensions between First Nations people bubble over.
The newly formed party Independents for Canberra launched its campaign today with a town hall meeting, as it searches for people to nominate as candidates.
During the event, Aunty Violet revealed she was considering a tilt at the seat of Yerrabi and answered some questions from those gathered.
A microphone set up in the middle of the crowd allowed those taking part in the meeting to step up and ask questions or share their opinions.
When Shane Mortimer took to the microphone he introduced himself as a Ngambri elder, saying he “shares the same heritage” as Aunty Violet.
This prompted a fiery outburst from Aunty Violet, who appeared to disagree with the comparison, and she stood up and turned her back on him.
“Shut up, Violet, this is my microphone. You can turn your back all you like, it only shows how rude you are and disrespectful,” Mr Mortimer responded.
He went on to say, “Now, Violet, I don’t turn my back on Ngambri country because that’s bad form”.
Another member of the crowd then asked Aunty Violet a question about recognising Indigenous heritage in the ACT, but when she took to the stage to speak she instead fired further barbs at Mr Mortimer.
Independents for Canberra co-founder Thomas Emerson attempted to ease tensions by reminding those in the room that the meeting started by talking about “relentless positivity” and that the conversation between Mr Mortimer and Aunty Violet should continue after the meeting.
There has been tension between the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples since the ACT government publicly apologised to the Ngambri people over its failure to recognise them as traditional owners of the Canberra area last April.
Light rail ‘really concerning’
Aunty Violet said she would take the next few weeks to “see where the independent movement [was] and their issues” before making a final decision on her candidacy.
She said if she did put her hand up, she would be running for much more than just Indigenous issues, with light rail and infrastructure in Gungahlin high on her list of issues.
“I’m really concerned about the light rail, where it’s going from the city to Woden,” she said.
“The process is interrupting people’s lifestyles. I believe we should have started at this stage with some electric buses.”