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LISTEN, engage, represent.

That is the pledge Cathy McGowan has made to Indi before Parliament.

Yesterday, just before 5pm, was the moment supporters of the new federal independent had been waiting for — when Ms McGowan would finally have her chance to open her mouth and speak to the House of Representatives.

With tradition dictating new members cannot participate in debate until they have made their maiden speech — lest they forego the first-time privilege of holding the floor for 20 minutes — it was a moment that marked the true beginning to her parliamentary career.

The public gallery of the house was a sea of orange, some 250 volunteers from across the electorate filling more than half the seats.

They sat with eyes transfixed as Ms McGowan spoke of her family history, her roots in the North East and passion for community, the Voice 4 Indi movement and grassroots campaign, and her vision for Indi.

There were a few hesitations, and slips of the tongue — referring to Speaker Bronwyn Bishop as “Madam Chair” instead of “Madam Speaker” for one — as she addressed the half-empty chamber for the first time.

She thanked “the makers of all things orange” and those who made the journey and declared her “absolute commitment to be part of Indi’s future”.

“I will listen ... to the young people of Indi, I make a formal commitment to involve you in decision-making.

“I will focus especially on those who live in rural areas who are disadvantaged because of poor public transport, patchy mobile phone coverage, terrible internet connections, fewer employment and educational opportunities.

“To the Aboriginal people of Indi ... I also commit to making a public statement to recognise and acknowledge past mistreatments to the stolen generations, their families and communities.

“I will bring the voices and community of Indi to Canberra ... I will work for a vision of a prosperous and caring community.”

The orange-clad crowd rose to their feet, cheering and applauding, as Ms McGowan concluded her speech and was congratulated by her fellow MPs.

Among them were crossbenchers Clive Palmer, Andrew Wilkie, Adam Bandt and Bob Katter; Opposition leader Bill Shorten, his deputy Tanya Plibersek; and backbenchers from the government and opposition.

Her Border counterpart, Farrer MP Sussan Ley, also attended briefly, ducking out again before the speech’s end.

Speaking outside of the house, Ms McGowan said it was “a wonderful experience”.

“People have been watching what Indi has done and are really keen to talk about it and learn how we did it,” she said.

“And we’re happy to share the love.”

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