#ASIANAUSPOL is part of a longer term collaborative project between BEING ASIAN AUSTRALIAN and the ASIAN AUSTRALIAN ALLIANCE to identify, showcase, discuss, and encourage Asian/Asian Australians who are running as a candidate or who are already there for Federal, State and Local elections.
Sally Sitou who is running as a Labor candidate for the marginal seat of Reid wants to see Australian Parliament reflect the populations and demographics of the community represented, and that is a big reason why she has put her hand up and been out and about campaigning in the hopes of election success. A daughter of Laotian Chinese parents who escaped after the Vietnam war over forty years ago, they worked hard in factory work to provide opportunities and education for her and her brother. Sally says that parliament needs to reflect experiences like those of her parents and many other parents who have struggled into success stories and with that comes the need of a more equitable society.
My parents came over forty years ago with little to no English and skills, but they were able to find god factory jobs they worked really hard at. From that they were able to buy a small townhouse in South Western Sydney and give my brother and I the educational opportunities that they never received themselves.
By all accounts their life is a success story, but as I reflect on their experiences, I wonder if it would have been possible if they had arrived forty years later, would they have been able to find secure work? I know for sure they wouldn’t have been able to buy a house in Sydney and we can see now how much things have changed. I am inspired by all this and that is why I put my hand up because I want to make this place a more equitable country, so that is a big part of the reason why I decided to run.
From humble beginnings, Sally’s life growing up is reminiscent of many Asian Australian and immigrant families in Australia, and her hope is to pass on the mantle her parents forged over to her own little family where she is bringing up a young son with her husband.
The other key part of running for me is the future I want my son and his generation to have and this is also the future I want the people of Reid to have. Asides from fighting to make our country more equitable a central component is about how we make our plant more sustainable and as we have witnessed from the recent natural disasters they are not a once in a generation event. And this is why issues such as climate change is key to making our society more livable and equitable for our families and communities.
Sally is definitely breaking the bias, and she has done just that throughout her career. Working as a researcher currently at the University of Sydney where she has worked over the past ten years in different roles, has taught her the value of education, community and advocacy. Now running as a candidate for Reid which is one of the most culturally and religiously diverse electorates in the entire country, she wants to use everything she has gained in work, in family and in community to hopefully be a role model and show everyone what is possible.
I guess in some way, I hope that instead of breaking the bias that I can become and show other people what is possible. For now I hope others seeing me run shows what potentially could happen more. I was able to create my own opportunities, put my hand up at the call of the Labor party and speak to branch members in getting support for my candidacy and I hope that this is a demonstration of what is possible and that there is a new era dawning on us in politics.
I hope Reid voters and people across the country can see me as truly representative of them because I think that is what the most powerful piece is here – that people can see me as truly representative of them and hence see themselves represented in the Parliament. Australian Parliament is better when people see themselves reflected because cultural diversity brings different life experiences and perspectives.
In the global pandemic of anti-Asian hate and the anti-China rhetoric being pushed out in Australian and global politics, being out there as an Asian woman running a campaign is no easy feat. When NSW state MP Jason Yet-Sen Li won the by-election in Strathfield (which is part of Reid) just weeks ago, he cited the racism he and his campaign volunteers have received throughout the campaign and he spoke about the long term effects of racism in Australia. For Sally the racism she has received thus far has pretty much been confined to the online space and she acknowledges that she has been a target by a vocal minority. She says that the current Morrison Government is creating more division rather than unity and this continuous negative rhetoric coming out of the Government on the Australia-China relationship won’t fix the casual and structural problems.
I have been fortunate in a sense that the racism I have experienced has been largely confined to social media and it is done by a minority. By and large my candidacy has been welcomed by so many people and when I say so many people, I also mean those you don’t expect to welcome my candidacy. The small minority on social media who have targeted me because of my cultural background and the sort of things they are saying are all false and all they have is assumptions about me and who I am.
I am lucky in that I am in a position to push back on these racial attacks and I did so early on in my campaign by confronting and exposing the things I was experiencing online. My aim and job is to continue with the campaign, engage with people and the community of Reid and to not allow this racism to impact on showing the real me. But you know what? The most disappointing thing lately has been seeing the comments by Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton about the Australia-China relationship and scrambling to find fault and differences. They have labeled the Labor Party as being one way and them as being the other, when in reality and policy wise both parties are on the same page and just want what is best for all Australians. What needs to happen is that our national leaders need to unite us and not continue to create division.
Finally, for those who are interested in supporting, engaging and helping Sally for Reid, how can they do so, and what words does Sally have for them?
We welcome anyone who would like to support my campaign whether it be time, kind words, monetary etc. My candidacy website is a great way to reach out to the campaign and you can find out about my whereabouts and campaign events and activities on the website and on my social media. One thing I do want to say is that the key thing here is that this election is one of the most critical we have had in a very long time. There is a real opportunity to affect change and there are major differences in how a Labor Government would govern as opposed to what we currently have now.
So far, I am loving everything about being a candidate. I love finding out what people’s issue are and helping them to find ways to solve it and if I am voted in as the next federal member for Reid, they will definitely see more of me out there engaging with the community.
Interested in following and knowing more about Sally? if you would like to make a donation to her campaign, please click here. Also, here are all his social media handles:
Images via @SalySitou Facebook page