New MPs have used first speeches to air causes such as more opportunities for Aboriginal people or spoken of their journey to politics.

Labor’s role as the fire of Australia’s democratic reform, opportunities for Aborigines and how wheat leads to politics have featured in new MPs first speeches to parliament.

Melissa Price, the Liberal member for the vast Western Australian electorate of Durack, called on Monday for help for small business operators and to bolster opportunities for Aborigines.

The “girl from the goldfields” said the WA resources sector was the biggest employer of indigenous Australians, who comprise 4.2 per cent of the sector’s workforce.

“There is a desperate need to improve the lives of indigenous people in Australia. Although there has been some progress with our community programs, we still have a long way to go,” she said.

“We need policies that will ensure that the current and future generation of indigenous children are educated, have hope and opportunities, and remain healthy, so that they may aspire to contribute in their own way to this great country.”

New WA Liberal MP for O’Connor, Rick Wilson, cited his biggest achievement as his supporting role in the deregulation of the wheat market and the end of the Australian Wheat Board monopoly.

His personal battle to achieve this reform ran from 1997 until deregulation in 2008 and lobbying first made him consider a career in politics five years ago.

“The impact on West Australian wheat growers was immediate – a sustained price rise of between $20 and $30 per tonne has been achieved, which equates to around $50,000 per annum for an averaged sized farm business,” he said.

The new member for the Victorian seat of Gellibrand, Tim Watts, a former adviser to Victorian premier John Brumby, said Labor was the fire in Australia’s democracy.

“We are the source of the combustion that drives political change in our nation. But this flame is difficult to maintain,” he said.

“When we have let the embers of reform burn too low, the public has overlooked us. Equally when we have the fires of radical change burn too rapidly, when the flame has grown too wild, the public has recoiled and rejected us.”

Hotham MP Clare O’Neil, an ALP member since her teenage years, continued to fly the party flag under the watchful eye of predecessor Simon Crean.

“He’s one of my Labor heroes and a person in whose footsteps I’m very proud to walk,” the former Dandenong mayor said of Mr Crean, who held the seat for 23 years.

Recounting a lengthy background including a professional life in law and economics, she described her time as a foster parent of a premature newborn and subsequent passion for child welfare.

“Each child subjected to fear and danger, each child who misses out on an education, on health care, on the very best diet in this abundant country of ours, is a special failing of the people in this room,” Ms O’Neil said.

“In my time here I hope to change that.”