47th parliament’s new, more diverse faces may mark a turning point in political representation

For decades, there has been criticism that Australia’s parliaments have failed to reflect the nation’s multiculturalism.

“Too white” or “out of touch” has been a critique leveled at both sides of the political aisle.

At this election, both major parties made attempts to broaden their memberships to improve diversity.

As the voting counts are finalized, the new 47th Parliament of Australia appears likely to bring a new set of culturally and linguistically diverse politicians into the fold, perhaps an indication that times are changing – though it has lost some prominent representatives too.

Record number of newly elected Asian and South Asian Australian politicians

According to the 2016 census, more than 10 per cent of Australia’s population identified as Asian Australian and a further 2.8 per cent described themselves as Indian Australian. yet at the 2019 election, only three candidates of Asian ancestry were elected into parliament.

Saturday’s vote sees Dai Le (Fowler), Michelle Ananda-Raja (Higgins), Sally Sitou (Reid), Sam Lim (Tagney), Cassandra Fernando (Holt) and Zaneta Mascheranus (Swan) newly entering the lower house, although Gladys Liu ( Chisolm) has lost her seat.

Ms Fernando was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Melbourne when she was 11.

Ms Mascheranus, a former fly-in fly-out worker, was born in Kalgoorlie to parents from Goa in India.

A woman with brown hair smiles
Dai Le claimed the western Sydney seat of Fowler from Labor campaigning on her strong community connection.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

On Monday, Ms Le reflected on her journey from fleeing war-torn Vietnam to contesting one of Labor’s safest seats and dislodging one of its most recognizable members.

“I still can not believe it,” Ms Le wrote on Twitter.

New First Nations faces joining parliament

The new Labor government has pledged to support the Uluru Statement and an Indigenous voice to parliament.

But within the parliament itself, Indigenous Australians have historically been rarely represented.

In the last parliament, there were just six Indigenous members in the entire parliament.

Although Ken Wyatt will lose his seat, Aboriginal Australians Jana Stewart (Victoria Senate), Jacinta Price (NT Senate) and Marion Scrymgour (Lingiari), who have cultural ties with the Tiwi Islands and Central Australia, were all successful in their respective races.

Ms Scrymgour was the first Indigenous woman elected into the Northern Territory Parliament.

A woman looks at the camera with a serious expression and hands on her hips.  She wears an ocher dress.
Jacinta Price enters the Senate after recently serving as deputy mayor of Alice Springs.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

More than a dozen women entering parliament for first time

The ascent of the Climate 200-backed “teal” independents has placed the issue of gender equality firmly on the political agenda.

Fourteen new women will join parliament and seven seats contested by women remain too close to call.

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