From the Newsroom

Dheran Young won a by-election on September 11 for the Daly electorate in the Northern Territory. He holds an autographed memento after playing a celebratory game of handball with former prime minister Kevin Rudd. Image: Contributed

Yaegl man elected to NT Government

Geoff Helisma

It wasn’t too long ago, Dheran Young was kicking a football around a vacant lot in Young Street, Wooloweyah, along with a lot of other kids from the neighbourhood – on Saturday September 11, Mr Young, 33, was elected to the Northern Territory Government as the Member for Daly.

On the day, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner declared the victory on social media.

“Tonight’s historic victory in Daly — the first time ever that a government has won a seat off the opposition in a by-election — is incredibly humbling,” he said.

“Dheran Young is a decent, honest and hardworking Territorian — and he will be a terrific Labor Member for Daly.”

The Independent caught up with Mr Young.

His story begins when he moved to Sydney after completing high school.

“Yeah, it’s a bit surreal that I ended up here [as Member for Daly in the NT], when thinking about running around the park playing footy at Wooloweyah,” he said

“I remember I was out in the surf at Spooky Point.

“My mom was in the car park when I came in and said, ‘Pack your bags, we’re driving to Sydney.’ … I didn’t really have a choice.

“I ended up in a hostel at Leichardt and my mum showed me how to apply for jobs.”

Mr Young landed a job as “a teacher’s assistant at Sydney Grammar School at Edgecliff”, where he worked for a year before studying at university to become a primary school teacher.

However, university wasn’t sitting too well with Mr Young.

Meanwhile, his younger brother, Birrigan, invited him to come to Wadeye – a large remote Aboriginal community 420 kilometres (by road) southwest of Darwin: ‘Hey, do you want to come up and do some youth work?’

“It was only supposed to be for one month, but I ended up working in a boarding school there for four and a half years,” Mr Young said.

His duties included making sure “students were going to school, developing programs with different stakeholders, such as the Womens Rangers and Centre, doing learning on country, taking the kids out camping on their homelands and out on country, and bringing along a lot of their parents and the elders”.

“It was really just getting students into boarding school and making sure they had … a two-way education: strong with their culture, but also having an understanding of the Western system and world,” he said.

Then it was off overseas for a year, to “South America, South Africa and Sri Lanka”.

“Then I came back to Darwin and got a job in the chief minister’s office,” he said.

“I started off as a community engagement officer and then I went for policy advisor; and then I worked for the attorney general as a senior policy advisor.”

Mr Young said that about 5,600 electors live in the Daly electorate, which is spread out over 77,395 square kilometres.

“It’s quite tricky; up here you are expected to know everyone, so it was quite a punishing campaign,” he said.

“But it was really good because you get to find out what’s really happening on the ground, constantly talking to people and community groups … it was a really hands-on campaign approach.”

Mr Young said he aimed to stick to the values he grew up with.

“My whole career has been about trying to help people who don’t necessarily have a voice or equal rights to other people … I’ve just been trying to work through that,” he said.

“For me, I think it’s about going back to our youth and empowering our young ones.

“Getting a strong education, but also then having the opportunity to [choose] whatever career they want to.

“Someone might even want to be a politician or the local member for the Daly region.”