Changes to rules governing political parties dashed the hopes of many minor parties around the country hoping to put their hat in the ring for the upcoming federal election earlier this month.
Uncle Owen Whyman, a Barkandji man from the small western NSW town of Wilcannia, expected to get the Australian Electoral Commission's tick of approval for his new political party in early September.
His plan to establish a national political party advocating for Indigenous issues had been two years in the making and had finally rounded up enough numbers to meet the requirements.
But in a swift move by both major parties in the last sitting week of parliament before an extended break, legislation passed increasing the minimum number of unique members for a new party from 500 to 1500.
His party, the Indigenous Party of Australia, has since gotten an extra 1000 unique members signed up but the community leader said it was another hurdle placed on the grassroots party.
"People should feel they can vote for a minor party if that party represents their views," Uncle Owen said.
"At a time when many are ill at ease with the major parties, it will strengthen the suspicion that the major parties care only for their own skins and not for democracy or the people of Australia."
It's not the first time he's tried his hand at politics after attempts to take on Nationals MP Mark Coulton in the federal election and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party's Roy Butler in the NSW election.
But this latest push came from his community's anger and frustration over not being heard by government in relation to water management in the area.
"It all came about from the destruction of our mighty Barka - what white men call the Darling [River]," Uncle Owen said.
"I never thought in my lifetime that I'll ever see the river dry, you know.
"It was the saddest thing."
The river has since began flowing again after a decade of drought and water mismanagement but the small remote community is now facing a new challenge.
Wilcannia had avoided a COVID-19 case for 18 months but NSW's devastating Delta outbreak had finally brought an outbreak to the town 10 hours' drive west of Sydney.
With a vaccination rate far lower than the major cities and regional towns, it threatened to cause serious illness and deaths.
A slow vaccine rollout coupled with a lack of official information and resources on the vaccine for remote regions meant towns like Wilcannia had been forgotten.
It's another reason the Barkandji elder wants to take matters into his own hands.
But while his dream was born out of Wilcannia's struggles, it will be a party advocating for Indigenous issues across the nation, he said.
Only Indigenous people will be chosen as candidates but anyone can sign up to be a member.
"[Indigenous] voices are not being heard right across Australia," Uncle Owen said.
"I'm pretty sure that when we get a chance, once COVID eases up maybe next year [and] when we get around to other states and territories, we will get more people signed up."
But even if the battle with COVID is still raging on when the federal election comes around, Uncle Owen vowed it wouldn't spell the end.
"I think the Indigenous Party has been coming for a long, long, long time and it's about time that we get in and get a voice for the Indigenous peoples of Australia," Uncle Owen said.
"We're here to stay, we ain't going away."
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