When Ken Wyatt was awoken with a tap on the shoulder on a flight to the United States he couldn’t quite believe the document that was been placed in front of him.
Its content told the Liberal MP he was about to become the first indigenous Australian in the federal ministry.
“It was surreal, so I reread it,” Mr Wyatt told reporters after he was sworn in as assistant health minister in new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government on Wednesday.
“It reminded me of what I had seen in movies.”
He ticked it off with an “emphatic yes” and had the Qantas crew send it back to the prime minister.
Due to the overseas trip, Mr Wyatt missed out on the first swearing in ceremony by Governor General Peter Cosgrove at Government House last week.
Despite the West Australian’s indigenous heritage, it’s aged care he will focus on and he wants to be known for his capability and contribution to the sector.
Before entering politics, Mr Wyatt worked in community health, including as director for aboriginal health in WA and NSW.
However, he knows indigenous people will be “immensely proud” of his elevation into the executive of government.
“Our heritage counts for all of us, and in my case being offered a position by the prime minister was very special,” he said.
Mr Wyatt’s official swearing in followed that of his boss, Health Minister Sussan Ley, who added Minister for Aged Care to her portfolios.
Why that wasn’t included in last week’s official ceremony isn’t clear and Ms Ley sidestepped queries on that matter on Wednesday, at one point saying she was “bewildered” by the question.
“In the previous government, we didn’t have a minister with aged care in the title,” she said.
“We’re talking about a few days here.”
Ms Ley wanted aged care back in the health portfolio due to “common sense” but wouldn’t say if the omission from the first cabinet lineup was accidental or intentional.
The health team is rounded out with Minister for Rural Health, Fiona Nash – who was previously the assistant health minister.
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Alan Tudge and Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg were also at the swearing in ceremony for some technical changes to their jobs.