Sally Sitou to reflect on parliament's diversity

Sally Sitou to reflect on parliament’s diversity

Sally Sitou’s parents avoided talk of politics after fleeing Laos during the Vietnam War, but they will watch proudly from the public gallery as the new Labor MP gives her first speech in parliament on Tuesday.

The member for Reid, who is of Chinese heritage, will describe the moment in her speech as “surreal in the best way possible” after an “improbable candidacy” as her mother, Phet, and father, Syphan, look on.

Labor MP Sally Sitou will deliver her first speech to parliament with parents Phet and Syphan looking on. Credit:Edwina Pickles/ Brook Mitchell

“As I look around our House of Representatives today, it feels like finally it is starting to live up to its name,” Sitou will say in her speech, seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and TheAge.

“A house made up of people who truly represent and reflect their communities.”

Sitou will reflect on the checked history of migration policy in Australia, saying that “for much of our history, the path on which we walked was not towards multiculturalism but towards a White Australia policy”.

“It was a path that said there was no place in this country for people like me,” she will say.

“Those decisions were made based on fear and a failure of imagination. But we were able to fulfill the potential and promise of Australia, when leaders in this place were not driven by fear but by hope and compassion.”

She will quote former prime minister Bob Hawke who said in parliament that Australia’s eventual bipartisan rejection of race as a factor in immigration policy was “a triumph of compassion over prejudice, of reason over fear, and of statesmanship over politics”.

Sitou grew up in Cabramatta in southwest Sydney and she and her brother were the first in the family to attend university. She describes herself as “the product of good public education”.

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