Three-minute biography: Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, the rising star of Australian politics

Headshot of Malcolm Quekett
Malcolm Quekett
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has been called the rising star of Australian politics.
Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has been called the rising star of Australian politics. Credit: The Nightly

She seemingly arrived on the national political scene from nowhere.

In rapid time she became perhaps the leading campaigner opposing the Yes case in the 2023 Voice referendum.

And the success of the No vote established Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price as the rising star of Australian politics.

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But or course she didn’t emerge from nowhere.

Senator Price hails from the Northern Territory, having been born in Darwin to Warlpiri mother, Bess Price, and a father who she told former deputy prime minister John Anderson in a video interview in 2018 was “a white fella from Newcastle.”

She refers to herself as a Warlpiri/Celtic Australian woman, and told The Sunday Times in 2018 her husband, musician Colin Lillie, the stepfather of her children, is Scottish but calls himself a “Scaussie”.

A young Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
A young Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

Senator Price grew up in Alice Springs, including spending time in remote communities.

“I’ve seen what real disadvantage and marginalisation looks like,” she told the National Indigenous Times in 2023.

She has openly revealed that members of her family in Alice Springs experienced alcoholism, substance abuse and violence.

But there was another side to her family experience too.

Music and art were important parts of her childhood, and from 15, she began performing hip hop with a group of cousins and school friends who went by the name Flava 4, she told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

“It was about influencing our peers positively and demonstrating that it was wrong to think that all our Aboriginal peers were up to no good,” she said.

Flava 4 evolved into Catch the Fly, which saw her perform under the stage name Sassy J.

She went on to work as Director of Indigenous Research at the Centre for Independent Studies, and with a family business offering cultural awareness training.

She was encouraged by her community to throw her hat in the ring for a seat on the Alice Springs town council.

In 2015 she was sworn in by her mother — Northern Territory minister for local government at the time — and became Alice Springs deputy mayor in 2020.

She developed a media profile as she drew attention to violence and alcohol in the NT and in 2019 she ran unsuccessfully as the Country Liberal Party candidate for the NT seat of Lingiari.

But in 2022 she took her seat in Canberra as a senator for the Northern Territory, and in a hint of what was to follow, attacked the idea of the Voice, saying it would “drive a wedge further between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia”.

Senator Jacinta Price making her maiden speech in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra.
Senator Jacinta Price making her maiden speech in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Her meteoric rise accelerated when she replaced Liberal Julian Leeser on the frontbench and became shadow minister for Indigenous Australians in April 2023 after he stepped down when the Liberals decided to oppose the Voice.

As the Voice campaign began in earnest, it seemed the Yes case had all the momentum.

But Senator Price became an eloquent and tireless spokesperson for the No case, along with her colleague Warren Mundine.

They tapped into middle Australia, and momentum then swung back the other way.

In a powerful advertisement for the No campaign, Senator Price said the proposal was a major change.

“It will mean that some Australians are treated differently based on the colour of their skin. I’ll be voting no, because this will not unite us, this will divide us.”

I am an empowered Warlpiri/Celtic Australian woman who did not and has never needed a paternalistic government to bestow my own empowerment upon me.

In The West Australian she took aim at the stance of so-called elites.

“Qantas, the billion-dollar corporates, the big banks, the condescending university academics and the rich celebrities — the most powerful organisations and people in the country are all badgering Australians to support this divisive proposal,” she said.

“But now you have something more powerful than all their money and influence: your vote.”

The Voice proposal was crushed.

Afterwards Senator Price doubled down.

“I am an empowered Warlpiri/Celtic Australian woman who did not and has never needed a paternalistic government to bestow my own empowerment upon me.”

Big things seemingly loom.

Former Nationals leader Michael McCormack told the Sydney Morning Herald that “when she walks to the front of the party room, people listen.”

“Jacinta Price could be anything.”

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