Remember 'forgotten' communities: Le

·3-min read

A newly-elected MP has shared her journey to federal parliament after arriving in Australia as a refugee of the Vietnam War.

Independent MP Dai Le made history at the May election when she beat Labor's candidate, former senator Kristina Keneally, and won the southwest Sydney seat of Fowler.

Fowler had previously been a safe Labor seat, held for 12 years by Labor MP Chris Hayes on a significant margin until his retirement in 2022.

In her first speech to parliament, Ms Le said her electorate was tired of being taken for granted by the major parties.

"The people of Fowler wanted and needed a representative who came from their community and would never forget the personal challenges that they face ... not just at election time but every day," she said on Monday.

"While it is a privilege to represent the people of Fowler, we are not a privileged people.

"We are the forgotten people and yet we are the backbone of Australia."

A breast cancer survivor, Ms Le said she had experienced Australia's "amazing" public health system but would use her time in parliament to advocate for more services in her electorate.

With a 10 per cent unemployment rate in Fowler, Ms Le also called on the government to look locally to address Australia's skills shortages.

"We have migrants and refugees with professional qualifications who are now working in underqualified occupations," she said.

"We must work to swiftly create pathways for recognition of their qualifications so that we can engage their skills in our community."

Ms Le worked as a foreign correspondent for the ABC and had previously tried to enter the NSW parliament as the Liberal candidate for Cabramatta.

In 2012, she ran as an independent and was elected to Fairfield City Council, a position she held until 2021.

"I never set out to be a politician," she said.

"I only want to be a strong advocate for a community that has been neglected and abandoned by the major parties."

During her speech, Ms Le also shared memories of the boat journey with her mother and sisters after fleeing war-torn Vietnam when the former southern capital of Saigon fell.

Just seven years old, Ms Le remembered the treacherous trip where the wooden boat nearly capsized in a major storm.

After living in multiple refugee camps overseas, she and her family were eventually settled in Australia.

"I remember the moment when we were accepted to be resettled as refugees in Australia ... and remembering as we stepped out of Kingsford Smith airport, the feeling of gratitude and freedom, " she said.

"We were filled with hope as we looked out onto the horizon of endless possibilities."

Wearing a traditional Vietnamese dress featuring a print of the Australian flag, Ms Le showed her patriotism for the country that adopted her and her family.

"Australia, you welcomed my mother, my family, with open arms, you gave us comfort, food and a warm bed to sleep," she said.

"This migration story belongs to all of us. It's our story, and we can all be proud to share it."