The first Indigenous woman elected to Australia’s parliament has defended her decision to quit before the upcoming federal election.
Former Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris announced on Tuesday that she would not re-contest her Senate seat at the election on 2 July.
At Thursday’s emotional new conference, she said the move was for her family.
“Until you are an Indigenous person, do not criticise me for the decisions I’ve made,” she said.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard had parachuted Ms Peris to the top of Labor’s Senate ticket in the Northern Territory before the 2013 federal election, replacing 15-year veteran Trish Crossin.
Ms Crossin this week criticised her replacement for quitting so close to the election. The coalition government also accused her of abandoning her constituents.
‘No-one should judge me’
But Ms Peris defended her decision at an event in Darwin, saying that she “didn’t call the election”.
“This decision I have made has been on family and I have to look after my children,” she said.
She also rejected suggestions that she owed her constituents a better explanation of her reasons for quitting.
“I’m a 45-year-old woman and I’m sure you don’t go around every single day time of your life justifying the things you have to do,” she said.
“No-one should judge me… It’s not easy to wake up every morning and bounce out of bed and pretend that life is fantastic because it isn’t.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten accompanied Ms Peris at the event and praised her as a “remarkable Australian” and “great mum”.
Reports earlier in the week suggested Ms Peris was in line for a leading role with the Australian Football League.
The senator’s family came under intense media scrutiny early this year after her daughter made accusations of domestic violence against her football player boyfriend. The charges were dismissed.
Labor will announce a new candidate soon, with journalist and former Northern Territory minister Malarndirri McCarthy emerging as a frontrunner.