#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.
Kacey Lam-Evans is running for the Australian Senate for the Liberal Party as the #2 running partner on the ACT’s senate ticket after current Liberal Senator Zed Seselja who is the current Minister for International Development and the Pacific. Born in Melbourne to parents who migrated to Australia from Hong Kong, Kacey grew up living behind a local milk bar where she worked helping her parents restock shelves and operate the till from the age of 7 – 8 years old. After she finished high school, she moved to Canberra for university and studied a Bachelor of Arts. It was this time where Kacey developed her yearning and passion to learn and understand more about Indigenous culture and issues and got involved in ‘ReconciliACT’ – an Australian National University (ANU) group her friend created. She ended up studying international development and Indigenous studies, and said this was the best decision she had made in terms of her vocation.
For me international development was really an area of interest seeing others less fortunate than us in Australia and learn the theories behind it. A friend who has sadly passed away already who grew up in Wagga formed a group called “ReconciliACT” at ANU and this is where I learned about Reconciliation and the importance of our nation coming together and for our First Nations people feel accepted. Being involved in this made my decision to change my international development degree to include Indigenous studies and I think for me this is one of the best things I have ever done. It is so important to understand history and how it impacts on the future.
Kacey spent much of her career in the public service and working for Government, and it was when she started to work for Liberal Minister Christopher Pyne that her passion for politics started to show its feathers. This happened in 2013, when she cold applied with Pyne’s office and it was this opportunity and the willingness to give her a chance which really developed this passion and it was also when she knew the Liberal Party was for her.
In 2013, I cold applied with Christopher Pyne’s office and was very surprised that I was one of his first hires in his office. I started as an education policy advisor and worked on delivering NISA (National Innovation Science Agenda), and from there when Christopher’s portfolio moved to defence, that was what I/we worked on and that was probably one of my favourite times.
When Christopher retired, I transferred into another office and in 2020, decided to take the plunge and run for a seat ( Ginninderra), and even though I didn’t win it, it was such a great experience. That experience I gained was a blessing in disguise and it gave me an opportunity to work with Christopher again in business where I am a partner in Pyne and Partners (corporate advisory).
Running as a candidate for any election, no matter whether it is for the lower house or the senate is no easy feat, and you are on an almost daily basis putting yourself out there and exposing yourself to all the elements. If you are Asian and a woman, it is a double layer of risk with a combination of racism and sexism when things don’t go well. So being an Asian woman and running is really “breaking the bias” – which was actually the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day – so how has Kacey “broken the bias”?
I think upon reflection, I break the bias everyday in my industry, where it’s not common for people who look like me to be in job positions that I have had the fortune of being in. I am quite used to this that at times when I walk into a room where many people do look like me, I do get surprised, but what that shows is that we always need more diversity in all different areas. I am fortunate to have people backing and supporting me, and recognising my contributions to have the career I have had.
In the ACT, Elizabeth Lee ( who is the leader of ACT Liberals in the territory Parliament), is really a role model for all women of colour, regardless of political ideals. She is also the first Asian woman to lead an Australian political party, and she is proud of her identity and talks a lot about the importance of diverse leadership. Elizabeth is also someone who Kacey looks up to and is someone who has continued to encourage her to pursue politics.
Elizabeth is a great support and inspiration for younger Asian women for sure, because you can’t be what you can’t see. She is shaping the pathway for many women and men to consider politics in the present and the future. Elizabeth Lee has and continues to be a fantastic mentor for me. She guides me and encourages me, particularly when I am not confident. There would be no way I would have put my hand up in 2019, if Elizabeth Lee didn’t encourage me.
Finally, the obligatory topic of seeing a lack of Asian faces in Australian politics was discussed. What are Kacey’s view on this issue of diversity and representation?
I would argue that we have actually made great strides in increasing representation of Asians in federal parliament with Penny Wong, Gladys Liu, Ian Goodenough etc. That doesn’t mean there is no need for more, of course we need more, but I think what is more important is more people who looks like us putting their hand up and getting their respective community support.
Representation is not going to happen overnight, as we do need to cross the obstacle that in many of our Asian families, talking about politics is still taboo. It is great that we all come from a diverse range of political views, but most of us come from the same foundation on not being political when we were young. I think we need to first change the culture that politics is not a taboo to talk about at home, and then that will change the aspirations of the younger generation of Asian Australians who in turn will consider politics earlier in their lives.
Interested in following and knowing more about Kacey? Here are all her social media handles:
Images provided and from Kacey Lam-Evans – ACT Liberals for the Senate Facebook page