Adjournment Speech: Poliversity, 3 March 2016 - House of Representatives

Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (16:30): The 2016 Lunar New Year celebrations, acknowledging the Year of the Monkey, were recently hosted by the member for Berowra, the Father of the House, and me here in one of our courtyards. Members and senators were joined by community representatives including Sam Wong AM; Donni and Samuel Pho, from the Australian Salvation Army; Mrs Chin Wong; and Gary Lee, the 2016 New Australian of the Year. The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, also spoke at the celebrations and welcomed the inauguration of what will hopefully be an annual fixture on the parliamentary calendar. We launched traditional floating lanterns into one of the parliamentary ponds—possibly the first time this has happened—and then moved to the public lawns on Federation Mall to enjoy the skills of David Wong's Prosperous Mountain Lion Dance group. 

The event was co-hosted by Poliversity, an organisation founded by Wesa Chau and Jieh-yung Lo. Poliversity's mission is to advocate for cultural diversity in politics, to achieve more balanced and equitable political representation, to recognise the multicultural make-up of Australia—in short, to promote parliamentary candidates who look like the Australia we know and love. Poliversity has been founded to promote engagement and participation and to provide opportunities for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to put up their hands to serve as representatives in parliaments and public institutions. Poliversity will promote better representation of cultural diversity in Australian politics, and I acknowledge the hard work of people like the member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou, and the member for Kingsford Smith, Matt Thistlethwaite, who are the co-patrons of this new organisation. I recommend to the House the launch speech of the member for Greenway, Michelle Rowland, who reached right back through Australian history in talking about the value of an organisation like Poliversity.

There are those who have served in Australian parliaments who were trailblazers so that others could come behind them. You think of Irina Dunn, the Independent senator for New South Wales, who was the first parliamentarian of Chinese descent. Other parliamentarians of Chinese descent have since followed her. Dick Klugman, as member for Prospect, was the first refugee to become a federal member of parliament. Milivoj Lajovic, a senator for New South Wales, was the first non-British post-World War II migrant in parliament. He was born in Yugoslavia in 1921. Con Sciacca was the first Italian-born parliamentarian. Sam Dastyari was the first Iranian-born parliamentarian. Michelle Rowland was the first parliamentarian of Fijian descent. Indeed, it happens that Labor Prime Minister Chris Watson was the first Prime Minister from a non-English-speaking background.

In the spirit of diversity, I acknowledge Neville Bonner, the first Indigenous parliamentarian, and Nova Peris, the first female Indigenous parliamentarian. In that vein, it is a great pleasure to me that, at the next election, the Labor Party will be going to the people of Australia with Senators Nova Peris and Patrick Dodson on our team. Patrick Dodson's stepping into the other place as a Labor senator is a great thing. He is the father of reconciliation, whose grandfather Paddy Djiagween met the Queen in Broome in 1963 and asked, 'Why can't we have the same rights as the white man?' Professor Dodson reflected on how his grandfather would feel about the fact that Patrick Dodson is putting up his hand to be a Labor senator, and he said, 'He'd probably think I was a brave man, going into a white man's world.'

I also want to inform the House that, at the next election, I expect that our candidate for Barton will be Linda Burney, an Indigenous woman from New South Wales, and our candidate for Swan will be Tammy Solonec, an Indigenous woman from Western Australia.

Mr Snowdon: Durack as well—Carol Martin.

Dr LEIGH: And Carol Martin will be our Indigenous candidate for Durack. It is beyond time that the Labor Party's candidates included an appropriate number of Indigenous Australians. I commend these candidates for putting up their hands and I commend Poliversity for its work in ensuring that Australia's rich migrant history is reflected in the candidates that run for the Labor Party at the next election. 

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