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Australia: Sally Sitou, a daughter of refugees, Maiden Speech 2022

27th July 2022: Sally is the daughter and grandaughter of refugees, people with few choices who escaped their homeland and travelled to Australia for safety and freedom.

Text and video below

... There is a beautiful serendipity about today. That I am now standing in this chamber as a member of parliament on the 40th anniversary of my parents Australian citizenship.

This moment here is surreal, in the best way possible, that one could dare to dream this big for this was an improbable candidacy.

Being elected into our federal parliament is a big deal but it's an even bigger deal for my parents.

They fled their homeland fearful of what might happen to them because of who they were and the values they held.

Even after arriving here they continued to carry that fear, not wanting to talk about politics not, wanting to share their views and, here they are in the public gallerywatching their daughter speak in our Federal parliament.

So you can imagine what this means for them, how much they've come to embrace the best of this country - our freedoms to speak out, to hold a faith, to build the life we want and our responsibilities to those around us so that we may all prosper together.

I marvel at how much has changed for my family in just one generation and that is the power of the Australian story because stories like mine are only possible in countries like Australia.

I am the daughter of migrants a proud chinese Lao Australian.

I grew up in Cabramatta in southwest Sydney.

I'm the product of good public education and now i'm the federal member for Reed.

I grew up watching Home and Away and Neighbours but I also grew up with a slight unease not sure of who I was. Not sure if I'd gone to the right schools and acutely aware of the postcode I grew up in. Not sure of my place in this country.

That's why i think it's important to have someone like me in our Federal parliament not for diversity sake but because representatives that embody all of the Australian story make our parliament better and our democracy stronger.

I speak about my family's story because it is core to who I am. It's what shaped me and the values I want to bring to our parliament.

It also connects me to my community. The men on the factory floor in Silver Water remind me of my dad who worked in an automotive factory for years.

Religious leaders who fled their homelands because of persecution, heir stories remind me of my own family fleeing their homeland.

Parents who talk to me about wanting to give their kids good quality education, it's the same desire I have for my son and the same desire my parents had for me.

When I encounter racism and prejudice I know firsthand how it corrodes our community and holds Australia back from being the best country we can be and this is a message 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.

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.

To my parents, Pet and Sipan, for the sacrifices you have made, the love you give and the inspiration you have provided, thank you.

To the two people who have been my biggest cheerleaders in life my husband Rui and my son Max, you are my reason for being and I love you both,


I want to dedicate my first speech to my Amar, my maternal grandmother. She was the most remarkable woman. Amar was a widower and a single mother of eight. She had to uproot her life twice. First china to Laos and then and then Laos to Australia.

I think about her often because so much of her life happened to her. She had very few choices. She didn't get to choose a career or even where to live and the last photo I have with her is on the dance floor at my wedding in Laos.

Amar stayed on in Laos after the wedding, choosing to spend her final years there. It was one of the few choices she had an opportunity to make.

It's because of her and the sacrifices she has made that my life was possible, where a world of opportunities has been unlocked for me.

I have been able to make choices about what i want to study, what career I want to pursue and the choice to stand for parliament.

While we still have some ways to go before we achieve gender equality, when I think about how different my life is compared to Amars, I know we're on the right path.

If my amar was with us today I think she would have been astounded but very proud too


Thank you.

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