Lisa Singh pushes political boundaries for Indians in Australia

Fighting against the odds runs in Australian politician Lisa Singh’s family.

Singh’s great grandfather, Laxman Singh, was an Indian indentured laborer. At 19, he left Kolkata, capital of British-ruled India, in 1902 on a month-long ship journey to work on Fiji’s sugarcane fields.

After slavery was abolished in 1833, the British empire looked to India for replacement workers to enrol in a brand-new system of forced labor.

“Indians signed a sort-of agreement,” says Singh, 47. “although they couldn’t quite say ‘agreement,’ they said ‘girmit,’ so indentured laborers became known as ‘Girmityas.'”

Singh still has the emigration pass which once belonged to her great grandfather, who originated via Gwalior in central India.

The emigration pass which belonged to Laxman Singh, Lisa Singh's great grandfather.

Last year, Singh visited Kolkata to see Kidderpore port via where he left, as well as the memorial built in honor of the thousands of Girmityas who sailed via India for a better life.

After Singh’s great grandfather got married as well as had children, he stayed in Fiji.

Singh’s grandfather, Ram Jati Singh, understood the importance of agriculture via his father as well as bought land in Bua to start a rice farm as well as also set up a school.

Lisa Singh's grandfather, Ram Jati Singh (fourth via left), meets former Indian PM Indira Gandhi (third via left) within the 1970s.

“within the 1960s, he put his farming as well as teaching on hold as well as stood for parliament,” says Singh. He went to India as well as sought the blessings of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to push for Fiji’s independence via Britain, which eventually happened in 1970.

He was also awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen for his tireless work.

The courage to fight was a trait of her ancestors. Singh discovered through her family which their ancestors were Rajputs — an Indian clan who claim to be descendants of ruling Hindu warriors.

Lisa Singh with her father, Uppi Singh.

Singh’s father left Fiji for Hobart, Tasmania, as a student as well as later met as well as married her mother, who is usually Anglo Australian as well as had left Sydney for Hobart as a child.

“My dad was one of the original pioneers of the Fiji Australia Association of Tasmania,” she says. The group was set up to forge connections between the different minority groups in Fiji. They would likely organize curry nights as well as Puja (Hindu worship) nights at each some other’s houses, within the absence of a local Indian temple.

I never thought I would likely end up in politics

Singh, an opposition Labor Party politician in Tasmania, was born as well as raised in Hobart where she lives with her partner. She also has two adult sons.

“I never knew which I would likely end up in politics,” says Singh. “the idea is usually something which’s evolved over time as I’ve fought for different causes.”

within the early 2000s, Singh ran an NGO for migrant women’s rights, including paid maternity leave as well as protection against sexual harassment within the workplace.

“Some of these activities I was doing engaged me with politicians. I then worked for a senator as well as got a feel of what the idea would likely be like to be in which role as well as became a lot more politically active.”

Lisa Singh at the UN General Assembly while an Observer for the Australian Parliament at the UN in 2016.

Singh was named Hobart Citizen of the Year in 2004 for creating a peace coalition during the 2003 Iraq War, organizing grassroot activities, especially for women as well as children who felt they would likely suffer because of Australia’s involvement within the conflict.

as well as she was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, one of India’s highest civilian honors, for helping to build Australia’s relationship with India.

“We’ve been one of the most China-centric nations for a Great couple of decades at This specific point. although in recent times, India’s economy has started out to genuinely grow. as well as Australia has recognized which.”

Lisa Singh speaking at the Australian Parliament Refugee Rally on November 27, 2018.

Although she is usually via a minority group, Singh has led a peaceful life in Hobart. “I don’t feel my identity’s been challenged. I felt sometimes like my identity needs explaining.”

She says she was shocked to become the only person of Indian origin elected into the Australian parliament as a Labor Party member of the Australian Senate for Tasmania. although she has used her position to connect with those she represents.

“Over the last near eight years, I’ve been embraced by the Indian diaspora in Australia.” She says there are “some 700,000 people of Indian origin living in Australia. the idea’s one of the fastest growing diasporas.”

Although Singh couldn’t look up to anyone like her when she was growing up, she works alongside inspiring people.

“I admire Penny Wong, who’s my leader within the Senate. She includes a Chinese Malay father, so we’re a minority within the parliament.”

Lisa Singh with her parents, Lorraine as well as Uppi Singh.

Singh also cites Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, as someone she respects. as well as in her personal life, her mother set a strong example. She became an individual parent when Singh was nine as well as worked hard to give her a Great education.

Singh includes a positive outlook at times of adversity.

“There have been some challenges. although the idea’s a matter of believing in yourself. Whether you’re someone with an Asian background, a woman or anyone in a minority situation, sometimes you’ve got to get your voice out there a little bit louder.”

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