CANBERRA (CU)_Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently appointed a diverse cabinet crew and boasted of the record number of women appointed to his frontbench team. Women altogether did historically well in this year’s election, with a record number of women being elected to parliament. Among them was Cassandra Fernando, who became the first ever Sri Lankan-born member of Australian Parliament.
The former union organiser and pastry chef moved to Melbourne from the island nation at the age of 11. She grew up in Dandenong North, Victoria, before she started working at Woolworths in Dandenong Plaza. Following her 15-year tenure at the company, Fernando became a delegate to the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), before working as an SDA organiser for five years.
Her parents taught her to never take anything for granted and instilled in her three key values, gratitude, hard work and commitment, all of which she upholds to this day. She volunteered tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds over the years to enable them to make the best of every opportunity. She says she decided to become a candidate for Holt, a suburb in the Belconnen district of Canberra, because she is of the view that only a Labour government can deliver a better future for the local community.
“I put my hand up to run as the Labor candidate because I want to be a voice for our community, essential workers and all Australians like yourself and me,” Fernando said. “As a migrant and a woman, I know too well the difficulty of not having someone to be a voice for you. I know too well the difficulty of not being represented at the decision-making table,” she noted, adding that she has lived through these difficulties, which have guided her into the person she is today.
“It is an honour to be first Sri Lankan-born member of Parliament and an honour to be among many Labor members elected who make Parliament more representative of Australian society,” the proud migrant said. “I want to be an example for every Australian to believe that they and their children can be parliamentary representatives one day.”
Fernando is one of 14 new female candidates joining the Australian parliament for the first time. The 34-year-old gained the votes of 40,187 Australians in the recent election, which enabled her to secure 57.5 per cent of the vote, while her fellow-contender from the Liberal Party, Ranj Perera, who is also a Sri Lankan, polled 42.5 per cent of the vote.