Refugee, 27, who fled Taliban aged five becomes Australia’s first hijab-wearing senator and vows to represent everyone ‘wherever they come from and whatever they believe in’
- Refugee and hijab-wearer Fatima Payman, 27, has been elected to the senate
- The union organiser is also the third youngest senator in Australia’s history
- Her family fled Afghanistan when she was five after the Taliban targeted them
A 27-year-old refugee who fled the Taliban has become Australia’s first hijab-wearing senator.
Labor’s Fatima Payman was elected to WA’s sixth senate seat after election results were finalised on Monday. She is the third youngest Australian senator in history.
Union organiser Ms Payman was five years old when her family fled the Taliban in Afghanistan and moved over to Pakistan. The Taliban had targeted the family because her grandfather was a member of the Afghan parliament.
Her father, a key inspiration for the new senator, then left for Australia by boat, vowing to find ‘a better life for his children’.
Ms Payman, the eldest of four children, followed her father’s footsteps three years later, with the family settling in the northern suburbs of Perth.
The new senator is proud of her heritage but told the Guardian after her election win that she is ‘Australian first’.
Labor’s Fatima Payman, 27, was elected to WA’s sixth senate seat after election results were finalised on Monday
She will be the first hijab-wearing senator to sit in Australia’s parliament after her victory
Union organiser Ms Payman was five years old (pictured) when her family fled the Taliban in Afghanistan and moved over to Pakistan
‘Yes, I am the first hijab-wearing woman in parliament, but it was my Labor values that carried me here,’ she said.
‘Before I am Afghan, or a migrant or a Muslim, I am an Australian Labor senator, I do really want to emphasise that. I believe that everyone deserves a fair go in life despite where they came from and what they believe in, their sexual orientation, age or ability.’
Ms Payman also took aim at Pauline Hanson, the re-elected One Nation senator who wore a burqa in the Senate as part of a political stunt calling for it to be banned. Ms Payman joked Ms Hanson had ‘stolen her thunder’ but said she’d ‘teach her how I wear my hijab’.
The newly-elected senator has previously spoken about how her father instilled in her values of ‘hard work and perseverance’.
He was also ‘obsessed’ with politics and would often discuss it at the dinner table.
Her father worked several jobs after making it to Australia, working as a kitchen hand, security guard and a taxi driver. Her mother, who looked after the family, also started a business giving driving lessons.
Ms Payman lost her father to leukemia in 2018, something that pushed her towards politics.
The new senator is proud of her heritage but told the Guardian after her election win that she is ‘Australian first’
The newly-elected senator has previously spoken about how her father instilled in her values of ‘hard work and perseverance’
She worked as an organiser at United Workers Union with her Labor profile saying she wanted to represent people ‘like her Dad and other hard working Australians, striving to make ends meet and giving life their best shot’.
Ms Payman has done volunteering by tutoring high school students and has worked with WA Police to help them ‘better understand the barriers faced by youth and culturally diverse communities’.
‘I am really excited to get involved, learn as much as I can and start to make a difference, because that is exactly why I put my hand up in the first place,’ she told the Guardian after her election win.
‘My mum was bawling. I honestly would do anything to know or see my dad’s reaction. I know he would be so proud of me. He would feel that this has been an unreal journey.’