Women of color cannot be ignored

Culturally diverse women include the independent Dai Le, who was born in Vietnam, alongside Labor’s Michelle Ananda-Rajah, who has Sri Lankan ancestry, and Sally Sitou who has Chinese ancestry.

Many of these victories did not come naturally. Research by ANU suggests that women are more likely to be preselected for marginal seats. In this election, only two in ten female coalition and Labor candidates were selected to sit in the safest seats, demonstrating that women – and especially diverse women – usually get the tougher fight.

New Labor MP Sally Sitou.

New Labor MP Sally Sitou.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Their success despite the odds shows voters resonating with candidates who offer something other than the rich, white status quo.

Representation in politics can inspire more diverse women to run for office. A recent report from Plan International Australia found that a third of culturally diverse young female voters said they would never consider going into politics because of their cultural background and the Parliament is not diverse enough.

The powerful stories of incoming female parliamentarians help to show various women that they can and should raise their hands.


Upcoming MP Sally Sitou describes herself as the “daughter of hard-working Chinese migrants who fled Laos after the Vietnam War”. Dai Le becomes the first federal MP with a refugee background, remembering “lying on that rickety boat in the middle of the ocean, not knowing if our family will survive”.

These stories are not just stories. They are lived experiences that shape policies that work better for all of us.

Of course, women of color are not a monolithic block. Together they represent an enormous diversity of ethnicities, languages ​​and histories. The progress this election has made is good, but there are still many communities that are still not represented in politics.

In our next election, I want even more women of color to have the opportunity to participate, in addition to other communities traditionally not seen in our halls of power. The parties can no longer turn away. In fact, this could even mean their political defeat.

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