He’s the grandson of a ‘’Gamilaroi woman born in the Pilliga scrub,’’ a former Blaxland High boy, and as of a week ago he started running the Northern Territory.
Adam Graham Giles, 39, became the chief minister of the Northern Territory after ousting leader Terry Mills while he was on a trade mission in Japan.
Mr Giles was sworn in on March 14, becoming the first indigenous head of government of an Australian state or territory. Adam Giles succeeded by gaining the support of the party’s four indigenous members from bush electorates.
The new leader is used to controversy. He attracted media interest by rejecting calls for John Howard to allow parliament to say sorry to the Aboriginal stolen generations. “Sorry is a five-letter word,” he said. “Is it going to give someone a job?”
And in 2009 he famously complained when the federal government planned to move dongas from the Alice to Christmas Island.
‘’We’re taking potential demountables off disabled kids in Alice Springs to house scum asylum seekers in Christmas Island,” he told the territory’s Legislative Assembly. He later clarified the point on ABC radio saying “When I used the word scum I was referring to people smugglers, people who traffic in human misery”.
One of Giles’ first acts after being sworn in on Thursday was to scrap the post of minister for Aboriginal advancement. Thirty per cent of territory voters are indigenous. His spokesman told the Gazette Mr Giles did not believe in tokenism on Aboriginal issues and all ministers should be responsible — “it shouldn’t just be lumped at one minister’s feet”.
Mr Giles’ mother, Jan, who lives in Mount Riverview and teaches in Penrith, was in New Zealand on Monday and not available to speak to the Gazette.
Mr Giles was born in the Blue Mountains. In his maiden speech to parliament he described his father Robert Graham Romer as “a union man, an activist, a fighter for the BLF [Builders Labourers Federation] and the son of a Gamilaroi woman born in the Pilliga scrub”.
When his parents split, his mother married Jim Giles and the future leader took his stepfather’s name. He has a younger brother, an older stepbrother and two stepsisters. He is married to a former TV reporter and has a teenage daughter.
Adam Giles began his working life in a bakery at the age of 12 and later worked in real estate before moving into public housing management for the now defunct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. He was a social and economic policy adviser for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Mr Giles was popular at school according to former Blaxland High schoolmate Cherin Johns.
“I remember him as a popular guy with many friends. Always inoffensive so he picked his vocation well. He has indigenous heritage which he is proud of. Awesome, awesome guy. I cannot speak more highly of his character whilst at a school.”
Ms Johns said they invited Adam Giles to the class’s 20 year reunion but “he was busy in the NT”.
Mr Giles’s early life at the bakery has stayed with him, with his spokesman declaring that he “still wins the cake contest at the Alice Springs show”.
The federal Coalition’s indigenous affairs spokesman and Country Liberals senator for the NT, Nigel Scullion, welcomed Mr Giles’ elevation.
“This is an historic move by the Country Liberals and Aboriginal people all over Australia can rightly feel proud on this day,’’ he said in a statement.’