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  • Senator Mehreen Faruqi, the first ever Punjabi migrant in Australia's federal parliament (David Foote/Auspic)
"I'm a Punjabi through and through," Senator Mehreen Faruqi told SBS Punjabi, adding, "just yesterday I was filling out some mandatory forms and in many columns I proudly wrote 'Punjabi'".
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11 Sep 2018 - 11:55 AM  UPDATED 11 Sep 2018 - 4:32 PM

Dr Mehreen Faruqi, from the Greens Party, achieved many milestones when she became a Senator in Australia's federal parliament last month.

Born and brought up in Lahore (Punjab, Pakistan), before moving to Australia in 1992, she is the first Punjabi migrant to occupy a chair in Parliament House, Canberra.

She is also the first female Muslim Senator in Australia, and in cricketing parlance, has hit a century by becoming the 100th female member of the Upper House.

"But I represent all the people of NSW, all of the supporters and multicultural Australia," she told SBS Punjabi.

Joining federal parliament in the week of the leadership spill in Canberra, she said, "I had jokingly said that I'll shake up the system, not realising that so much political turmoil was in store."

She says her first impression of the federal parliament is that "it's a carnival".

"For the past ten years, we've just seen Prime Ministers come and go. It seems they are only thinking about themselves and not serving the people who elected them. It's incredibly depressing to see that instead of concentrating on real issues like the drought afflicting NSW, climate change issues, children being incarcerated in Nauru, rising poverty in Australia and housing affordability, they are only thinking about themselves."

Dr Faruqi spoke about meeting Senator Fraser Anning, a few days after his controversial maiden speech which she called "toxic and divisive words spoken in the nation's highest office."

"Yes, I met Senator Anning and said hello. That's about all for now," she said. "But the doors to my office are always open.

"I'm keen to show everyone that Australia is a rich and vibrant country due to its multicultural base. We've lived together for such a long time - and politicians shouldn't create divisions."

Speaking about a wave of intolerance against migrants in many western nations, Senator Faruqi agreed it was a world-wide phenomenon. But she said the main reason behind this is, "Governments don't invest in services and then migrants are blamed for lack of services like hospitals, schools and other other facilities."

"This is a divide and rule mentality in the political leaders these days."

Senator Faruqi also spoke about her opposition to the Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland, as well as about reports of bullying and harassment of female parliamentarians.

"Although I've come from the Upper House in NSW and have never personally faced bullying there, I'm familiar with the adversarial and toxic atmosphere in our parliaments.

"It's awful when some other parliamentarians just say women should 'develop a thick skin.' Why? Why should we normalise such behaviour and in the process, lose our ability to be empathetic?"

Addressing migrants from the Indian sub-continent who now call Australia, she said, "It shouldn't have taken this long for one of us to be elected to federal parliament.

"I'm well aware that I am the first person to do so and proudly carry the burden of inspiring our community to come forth in greater earnest.

"We can't sit on the sidelines and complain when things don't get done according to our wishes. We have to participate in the political process and influence change."

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