Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi delivered her maiden speech in the Senate on Tuesday, offering an upfront and blistering assessment of Australian politics today.
An engineer and academic, Faruqi is Australia’s first female, Muslim Senator, and the 100th woman to sit in the Senate. As we reported last week, she seems determined to take on racism in politics, particularly following racist and inflammatory remarks made during a certain other maiden Senate speech last week.
Faruqi told the Senate: “It is with great pride I stand here before you, unapologetically. A brown, Muslim, migrant, feminist woman and a Greens Senator.
“We are subject to rules that white people never will. We don’t have the luxury of mistakes or of slipping up, because as soon as we do we became a case study of existing stereotypes.”
“They are offended that people of colour, and Muslims, have the audacity to not only exist, but to open our mouths and join the public debate.”
I have the privilege of being the hundredth woman to sit in the senate. I’m thankful for the ninety-nine others who forged this path.
But I would not be standing here in front of you were it not for the exceptional women in my life.
— Mehreen Faruqi (@MehreenFaruqi) August 21, 2018
Faruqi shared the need to fight for important environmental causes, including saving the Great Barrier Reef, and also to legislate on policies that will make gender equality happen, such as punishing companies that pay women less than men.
She shared that she was the recipient of thousands of sexist and racist messages during her time in the NSW Parliament, and that her presence in the Senate, “is an affront to some.”
She said the existence of racism, sexism and other discrimination is not new. “But what has changed is its legitimisation, normalisation and encouragement in the media and politics.”
We must have the courage to admit that racism in Australia exists, she said.
And she added that condemnation of racism by Australian politicians — as we saw in the Parliament last week — means nothing if politicians go on to create and fan racial devisions.
“You can’t condemn racism and then, in a warm glow of self-congratulation, allow deep-rooted structures of discrimination to remain in access to healthcare and public services, in our prisons and justice system, and in our immigration system.”
Faruqi also shared her story as a woman, migrant, muslim and mother on social media this week, with a powerful message regarding what she’s done despite being told that she couldn’t or shouldn’t.
“They’ve tried to label me. They’ve told me a little girl can’t play cricket like my brothers, but I played anyway. They told me a girl can’t go to university, but I became an engineer, like my father,” she said in the video.
“They told me to go back to where I came from, but I stayed and my family built a life here.
“They told me I couldn’t return to university because there was no childcare service, so we started one.
‘They told me the future of our planet wasn’t important, so I became an environmental academic, teaching sustainability.
“They told me my opinion didn’t matter, so I became the first Muslim woman to sit in an Australian Parliament.”
I’m a woman. I’m a migrant. I’m muslim. I’m a mother.
I’m Mehreen Faruqi. This is my story. pic.twitter.com/VvEiIqATOZ
— Mehreen Faruqi (@MehreenFaruqi) August 20, 2018