Women of colour cannot be ignored

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

Many of these wins did not come easy. Research from ANU suggests that women are more likely to be preselected in marginal seats. This election, only two in 10 female Coalition and Labor candidates were selected to run in safe seats, showing that women – and especially diverse women – are usually given the harder fight.

New Labor MP Sally Sitou.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Their success despite the odds shows that voters are resonating with candidates who offer something different from the wealthy, white status quo.

Representation in politics may inspire more diverse women to run. A recent report by Plan International Australia found that one third of culturally diverse young women voters said they would never consider running for politics because of their cultural background and because Parliament is not diverse enough.

The powerful stories of incoming female parliamentarians help to show diverse women that they can and should put their hands up.


Incoming MP Sally Sitou describes herself as the “daughter of hardworking Chinese migrants who fled Laos after the Vietnam War”. Dai Le will be the first federal MP from a refugee background and recalls “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 colour are not a monolithic block. They collectively represent a huge diversity of ethnicities, languages, and histories. The progress made this election is good, but there are still many communities who are still not represented in politics.

At our next election, I want to see even more women of colour given the chance to run, alongside other communities who are traditionally not seen in our halls of power. Parties can no longer turn away. In fact, doing so might even spell their political defeat.

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