Australia’s first hijab-wearing Senator

  • By: Muhammad Abdul Basit
  • Date: August 9, 2022
  • Time to read: 3 min.

In an unprecedented move, an Afghan-Australian woman has been elected as the Senator of the Western Australia state.

Fatima Payman, 27, made history after being elected as the first hijab-wearing parliamentarian of Australia. Belonging to the Labor Party, Payman won the federal elections of 2022 and joined the 47th Australian parliament as a member of the upper house.

Who is Fatima Payman?

Payman was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She came to Australia as a refugee in 2003. She was only 8 when she arrived along with her family. She got her early education from Australian Islamic Institute in Perth. Later on, she studied many subjects, including anthropology, sociology and pharmaceutical sciences. It is self-evident that she was more interested in politics as compared to other fields. During her studies, she mostly stayed involved in politics.

Fatima comes from a hard working family. Her father did different jobs to make ends meet. Her mother also worked to support the immigrant family. She credits her success to her father’s struggle. His absence during her achievement made her sad. He died of leukemia at the age of 47 in 2018.

The young senator considers herself a representative of Australia. While delivering her first speech in the parliament, she boasted, “I am young, I am progressive, and my family were born overseas – I am a representative of modern Australia.”

In addition to being the first hijab-wearing senator, she holds some other distinctions as well. Payman is the youngest member of the current Australian parliament, the first elected leader of Afghanistan origin, and the third youngest senator in Australian history.

Political agenda

Fatima has a progressive view of society. Climate action, anti-corruption, and freedom of expression are her main areas of interest. She seems particularly determined in ending hijab misperceptions. In her speech, she said, “For those who choose to advise me on what I should wear, or judge my competency based on my external experience, know that the hijab is my choice.” “I won’t judge someone wearing boardies and flip-flops across the street. I don’t expect people to judge me for wearing my scarf.”, she added.

Addressing young girls, the senator said, “Wear your hijab with pride.”

Being a part of an ethnic minority, she feels the pressure of expectations from other diverse groups, such as Afghans, migrants, women, etc. “Having people’s hopes and dreams attached to your sort of progress and the work you do is quite a lot of pressure,” she said.

Payman feels that her induction into the senate body has given hope to young people that their voices will be heard. The young senator vows to hear the stories of the people and make herself approachable to them.

The youngest ever senator is Jordon Steele-John from the same state as Payman, who became a senator at the age of 23 in 2017. Natasha Stott Despoja holds the record of being the youngest woman to hold the senate office. Considering the developments in the previous years, it is observed that tolerance of diversity in Australia is increasing. Surveys show that a majority of Australians take pride in the increasing elevation of multicultural and differently-abled leaders to the lawmaking bodies.

Muhammad Abdul Basit

Muhammad Abdul Basit

Political Reporter

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