Australia’s first hijab-wearing parliamentarian has spoken of her journey as an Afghan refugee and encouraged young women to don their religious garb with pride.
West Australian senator Fatima Payman praised the increased diversity in parliament during her first remarks to the Senate.
“A hundred years ago, let alone 10 years ago, would this parliament accept a woman choosing a hijab to be elected?” she said.
“I want young girls who decide to wear the hijab to do it with pride and to do it with the knowledge that they have the right to wear it.
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“I won’t judge someone wearing boardies and flip-flops. I don’t expect people to judge me for wearing my scarf.”
The 27-year-old became emotional when speaking of her late father and her path to the Senate after leaving Afghanistan as a refugee.
“Who would have thought that a young woman, born in Afghanistan, and the daughter of a refugee, would be standing in this chamber today?
“Knowing the sacrifices that my dad went through … to ensure that he’d saved up enough money to make ends meet to support his family and to ensure that my siblings and I had the future he wasn’t able to secure for himself.
“I am young, I am progressive, and my family were born overseas. I am a representative of modern Australia.”
Senator Payman will deliver her first formal speech in coming weeks.
The senator’s comments come a day after the new member for Reid Sally Sitou spoke about being the daughter of refugees during her maiden speech in the House of Representatives.
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.
“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.”