Australia’s multicultural 47th parliament was on display during the first speeches of three new parliamentarians.

Labor MPs Sally Sitou and Zaneta Mascarenhas, as well as Liberal MP Aaron Violi, shared stories of their migrant families and how their upbringings inspired them to run for parliament.

Ms Sitou’s parents – who fled Indo-China after the Vietnam war – celebrated their 40th anniversary of Australian citizenship the same month their daughter became a federal parliamentarian. 

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“It is in this institution where decisions are made and they have a profound impact on people’s lives,” the MP for Reid in Sydney told parliament.

“Decisions made here have recharted the course of my family’s story, and the stories of so many Australians.”

Growing up, Ms Sitou said she loved Home and Away and Neighbours but felt unsure of her place in Australia. 

“I want to share with all young Australians: you are not defined by your postcode, the school you went to or where your parents came from,” she said.

“In this country, you are defined by the content of your character and what you want to do for others, where the potential and promise of this nation is only limited by our imagination.” 

Ms Sitou thanked her parents for working to ensure their children had access to good education and called on the government to prioritise spending on educational facilities. 

Ms Mascarenhas similarly paid tribute to a Labor government for making it possible for her Goan-Indian parents to move to Australia.

“My parents came to Australia after Gough Whitlam dismantled the last parts of the White Australia Policy,” the new MP for the Perth seat of Swan told parliament.

“This story taught me two things: politics is personal and politics can transform lives.” 

A former construction engineer from Western Australia, Ms Mascarenhas said she wanted the new parliament to fast-track workplace cultural change. 

“It should not matter whether your workplace is a bar, a mine site or a parliament, across Australia we need to clean up our act,” she said.

She also called for a just and orderly transition to climate-friendly energy to ensure people in mining industries were not left behind.

“We can get the transition right for regional and metropolitan Australia,” she said.

“Let’s create jobs for the future. Climate action is good for people, the community, the environment and the economy.”

Liberal MP Aaron Violi takes over from longstanding member and former house speaker Tony Smith. 

His grandparents moved to Australia from Italy in 1953 with their six children, settling in Silvan, a small town in Victoria.  

“I often reflect on my grandparent’s story and try to imagine the courage and sacrifice it would have taken to make that journey and the hardships they endured,” the MP for Casey in Melbourne said.

“It is an example of the extraordinary democracy we have in Australia that anyone, regardless of background, can become a member of parliament.”

Mr Violi reflected on the economic challenges facing Australia in the aftermath of the pandemic that left unchecked would be passed to future generations.

“A secure economy is not just about delivering a balanced budget or economic growth, it is about creating safety and opportunity for all,” he said.

“A secure economy, will play a vital role in our journey to net zero and we must protect societies’ most vulnerable through ensuring our energy system is secure, reliable and affordable.”