In an inspiration for younger generations, Fatima Payman, the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman in Australia’s federal parliament, encouraged girls who wear hijab to ‘do it with pride’ in her maiden speech to the Senate on Wednesday.
Proudly addressing the Senate in a hijab, Payman said the parliament started to reflect the “true diversity” of Australia.
“A hundred years ago, let alone ten years ago, would this parliament accept a woman choosing a hijab to be elected?” she said in the Senate, SBS News reported.
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“For those who choose to judge me on what I should wear or judge my competency based on my external [appearance], know that the hijab is my choice,” she said.
“I want young girls who decide to wear the hijab to do it with pride and to do it with the knowledge that they have the right to wear it. I won’t judge someone wearing boardies and flip-flops across the street, I don’t expect people to judge me for wearing my staff.”
Senator Payman arrived as an 8-year-old refugee from Afghanistan as a child with her parents and three siblings, before growing up in Perth’s northern suburbs.
She became emotional as she reflected on the “sacrifices” of her late father in giving her the chance to become a senator.
Her father Abdul Wakil Payman came to Australia by boat as a refugee in 1999 and was locked up in immigration detention.
For four years, he worked grueling hours as a kitchen hand, taxi driver, and security guard to save up enough money to sponsor his family.
“I’d like my first gratitude to be expressed to my late forgotten father whose sacrifices will never be forgotten and who I dearly wish was here to see how far his little daughter has come,” she said.
At 27, Payman is also be the youngest serving senator and the third youngest in Senate history.
Mehreen Faruqi is the first Australian Muslim senator, but does not wear a hijab.
Earlier this year, Anne Aly and Ed Husic made history as they became Australia’s first Muslim ministers.