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Fearful teenager now speaks up as an MP

AAP logoAAP 2/09/2016 Lisa Martin

For six years as a teenager Tim Wilson lived in fear.

Now's he a member of the federal parliament.

This week, in his maiden speech to the House of Representatives, the openly gay Liberal MP recalled the story of "finding" himself.

"For six of them I let fear determine who I could be," he said of the years he spent coming to terms with his sexuality.

"It was a fear that took an energetic 12-year-old and hollowed his confidence to eventually doubt his legitimate place in the world."

In those depths he had found his deeper inner strength.

As debate rages about same-sex marriage, Mr Wilson told MPs about the rings he and his partner wore on their left hands.

"They are the answer to a question we still cannot ask," he said.

"To my fiance, Ryan, I know you have sacrificed so much so that we can be here today, and we are only at the end of the beginning."

The MP's speech was one of several that lifted the often-private veil on the lives of our newest parliamentarians. Tissues were almost obligatory.

Linda Burney, the first indigenous woman elected to the lower house, invited the chamber to imagine what it was like for a 13-year-old girl who was told at school her ancestors were the closest thing to stone-age men.

"The Aboriginal part of my story is important. It is the core of who I am," she said.

"But I will not be stereotyped and I will not be pigeon-holed."

Ms Burney used her maiden speech to deliver a message to young indigenous Australians.

"If I can stand in this place, so can they - never let anyone tell you, you are limited by anything."

Another indigenous Labor politician remembered hiding in the long grass as his mates were taken by welfare officers and the police.

Pat Dodson, born before 1967 at a time when indigenous Australians were not counted in the census, the Labor senator said his family, like many Aboriginal families, still carried the pain of laws that were founded on racism.

"In times past people of different race, different colour, different religion, different sex, were subjected to exclusion, oppression or even discrimination under the laws made in this place," he said.

"Such laws cannot and must not return."

More MPs and senators are scheduled to deliver their first speeches when parliament resumes the week after next.

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