Three indigenous Northern Territory Labor members are vowing to seek preselection for the Senate, in a protest against Prime Minister Julia Gillard's push to elevate former Olympian Nova Peris to the top spot on the ticket.
Ms Gillard stoked tensions in the Territory when she announced last week her ''Captain's pick'', saying she wanted Ms Peris to be the first indigenous woman to serve in federal politics.
Ms Peris was not a Labor member when the move was revealed. Long-serving Labor senator for the Northern Territory, Trish Crossin, is set to lose her job as a result of the national executive taking over the preselection.
As the national executive prepares to rubber-stamp Ms Peris's nomination on Tuesday, three indigenous Territorians declared they were putting their hands up for preselection.
Des Rogers, Labor's candidate for Namatjira in last year's Northern Territory election, said the protest was not aimed personally at Ms Peris.
''She's obviously an outstanding indigenous woman; what I'm protesting on is the process,'' he told ABC Radio's AM program.
''That's why I've nominated: just to let people know in Canberra that for one, there is one indigenous person in the Territory that's been a long-term Labor member, has campaign experience, and I've nominated. Where that comes to any fruition I doubt it very much but it's my subtle way I guess of protesting.''
Former NT government minister Karl Hampton said he would also nominate as a matter of principle for the local Labor branches and ''die-hard'' members in the Territory.
''I think it's important that the national executive know that there are fully qualified and skilled and dedicated, loyal Labor members who are Aboriginal in the Northern Territory and should be given a chance as well,'' Mr Hampton told AM.
A former Labor deputy chief minister, Marion Scrymgour, who had already nominated before the push to install Ms Peris was announced, also told the program: ''A message needs to be given loud and clear to the national executive but also to Julia Gillard that she can't at whim choose to change processes under the ALP.''
Ms Crossin has vowed to challenge Mr Peris's preselection, too.
When she announced the push to install Ms Peris last week, Ms Gillard said she had been ''very troubled'' that the federal Labor caucus had never been able to count among its number an indigenous Australian.
Ms Gillard said she was determined to change that.
Ms Peris has sought to brush off the controversy over the push to install her, saying she was keen to serve the people.
''I'm at no fault in regard to the whole process of this thing; this is an opportunity I'm prepared to take,'' she told National Indigenous TV.
''It's not every day you get a tap on your shoulder by the Prime Minister.''
Ms Peris begged people to give her a chance.
''I've been chosen not on my athletic ability but as a woman who's been able to get the job done,'' she said.
''I'm passionate about my people; I'm passionate about being an Australian and a Territorian. Don't judge me now; give me a chance and let's look at where we are in about four, five years' time.''