by Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
A record number of people of Asian background now sit in the Australian Parliament.
Australia held its Federal Election on May 21 of this year. The country elected a more progressive government that is also the most diverse parliament in Australia’s history. The number of people of Asian backgrounds in the House of Representatives (Lower House) more than doubled from the previous election in 2019. The Australian Senate (Upper House) added one Senator of Asian background bringing the total number of Asian Australian Senators to three.
In the previous election cycle (2019 – 2022), of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives, only three were occupied by MPs of Asian background: Gladys Liu in Melbourne’s Chisholm, Ian Goodenough in Perth’s Moore and Dave Sharma in Sydney’s Wentworth. Of the 76 seats in the Australian Senate, there were only two Senators of Asian background: Penny Wong from South Australia and Dr Mehreen Faruqi from New South Wales.
After May’s elections, six more Asian MPs were added to the House of Representatives and one more Asian Senator was added to the Senate.
This week, Australian Parliament sat for the first time since the election, and the sea of colour is as vibrant as ever. Seven new members of Asian heritage have officially started their political careers. They are independent Dai Le in the Sydney electorate of Fowler; and Labor (politically similar to the Democrats in the USA) members Sam Lim in Perth’s Tangney, Michelle Ananda-Rajah in Melbourne’s Higgins, Zaneta Mascarenhas in Perth’s Swan, Sally Sitou in Sydney’s Reid, Cassandra Fernando in Melbourne’s Holt and Liberal (politically similar to the Republicans) member Ian Goodenough in Perth’s Moore.
In the Australian Senate, Labor’s Fatima Paymen was elected for Western Australia, and becomes the first Parliamentarian in Australia to wear a hijab. Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi from New South Wales remains in the senate and is also the second most senior person in the Australian Greens (politically left wing), recently being appointed as the party’s deputy leader. Senator Penny Wong from South Australia is one of the longest-standing Asian background parliamentarians and is now also one of the most senior in the Australian Government, becoming the first Australian Foreign Minister with an Asian background.
This Australian Parliament has witnessed many milestones, and where cultural diversity may not be a new thing in American politics, for Australians this shows a shift in the country and the ever-changing demographics of its population.
According to the 2021 Australian census data, 17.4% of Australia’s population have Asian ancestry, which has grown by 2-3% since the last Australian census which was held in 2016. Hence, using the current population percentage as the benchmark, more work needs to be done to reach an equivalent or better representation of Asians in the Australian Parliament.
There are currently ten Asian members of the Australian Parliament, meaning Asian Australians make up 4.4% of the Australian Parliament. This is definitely not enough. More advocacy and a push beyond the bamboo ceiling in Australia needs to be done to see this percentage increase after the next election in 2025.
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