Stephen Bates breaks down in first speech to Parliament: 'This is harder than I thought'

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A new Greens member of parliament became emotional on the floor of Parliament while delivering his maiden speech to the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Advocating for better mental health support, Stephen Bates struggled to hide his emotions as he shared his personal story of coming out as a gay man.

"I spent my teenage years knowing I was gay and doing everything in my power to hide it," he told the chamber.

The 29-year-old struggled to hold back the tears during his first speech in the House of Representatives. Source: AAP
The 29-year-old struggled to hold back the tears during his first speech in the House of Representatives. Source: AAP

"I told myself I would force myself to get married to a woman, have kids and live in the suburbs."

Acknowledging that he was lucky to have a supportive family to come out to, the 29-year-old was unable to hold back the tears.

"I spent years hiding myself because I could not see anyone in my world who was openly gay," he continued after composing himself.

Pausing again, he broke away from his written speech.

"This is so much harder than I thought it would be," he said, as warm laugher and calls of support could be heard on the floor of Parliament.

"I made a promise to myself once I came out that if I ever found myself in a public role, that I will be open and proud of who I am.

"That I would be the person that I never saw growing up, because if I can even help one person out there, then this life would have all been worth it."

Climate change played a major role in the federal election in May which saw the Morrison government swept from power and a raft of Greens and climate-focused independents gaining seats.

Mr Bates was among them, making history as the first Greens member elected for the seat of Brisbane.

Australian Greens MP for the seat of Brisbane Stephen Bates is congratulated by Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt while receiving a standing ovation. Source: AAP
Australian Greens MP for the seat of Brisbane Stephen Bates is congratulated by Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt while receiving a standing ovation. Source: AAP

He said he would use his time in parliament to advocate for those who have lost their voices due to the mental health crisis and shared the story of 24-year-old Maya Birch, who took her own life earlier this year.

"Maya is just one name in a long list of people who have had their lives cut short because of government inaction," Mr Bates said.

"The decisions we make in this place impact people's ability to survive.

"It is my job now to make sure that Maya's death was not in vain."

Mr Bates is congratulated by Independent MP Zoe Daniels after making his first speech. Source: AAP
Mr Bates is congratulated by Independent MP Zoe Daniels after making his first speech. Source: AAP

At 29 years old, Mr Bates is one of the youngest parliamentarians and said he hoped his election would inspire young people to run for office.

"This election has shown that people in this country are done with the status quo."

Mr Bates received a standing ovation from the crossbench upon the conclusion of his speech.

with AAP

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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