I was born in London in 1956 and spent my early years between Malaysia, Malawi in Africa and England. I was educated in England and Australia.
Moving to the Northern Territory in 1985, I established a professional fishing business following several years working in a variety of professions including the mining exploration industry. Fishing principally for Spanish mackerel, I spent six years living off the Arnhem Land coast and was privileged to develop strong relationships with many individuals in the region’s communities, before settling in Darwin in 1991. Here I became a partner in a company providing salvage, security, engineering and maritime consultancy services.
I was also a leading spokesman for the Northern Territory’s fledgling fishing and aquaculture industries, representing Australian fisherman as Chairman of the Northern Territory Seafood Council and Chairman of the Australian Seafood Industry Council. Later I represented the international fishing industry as Chairman of the International Confederation of Fishing Associations.
It’s not secret I’m a passionate community advocate, engaging in a wide variety of issues spanning across Indigenous affairs, the Northern Territory’s heritage and unique environment, regional health, education and training opportunities, agriculture, and foreign incursions into Australia's fishing zone.
I was elected to the Senate in October 2001 and have held a range of portfolios and positions both in Government and in Opposition, including Minister for Families and Community Services in 2007 during John Howard’s administration, and as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestries; and Human Services. At the end of 2009, Coalition leader Tony Abbott created Indigenous Affairs as a stand-alone portfolio, and appointed me as the Shadow Minister.
As a representative of Territory views in Canberra, I take pride in my negotiating skills, striving to get the best deal for my constituents in the north, and Indigenous Australians across the nation.