12 May 2019: The first ever Nepalese-origin candidate in an Australian federal election, Pramej Shrestha, says he is surprised by the amount of support he has received since he began campaigning for the seat of Barton.
However, the 26-year-old second-generation Nepalese-Australian realises all too well that he is poised against an opponent who is politically much more experienced than he is. Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, won the seat of Barton in the 2016.
Although fresh in politics, the support in his electorate has clearly boosted Mr Shrestha’s morale, “Because it was a Liberal seat before. And because there are a lot of new migrants in our area, I think the seat can change.”
The Liberal candidate, the only son of doting Nepalese parents who emigrated to Australia in 1999, is a popular youth leader who has mentored high school students through Generation Entrepreneur and has undertaken youth leadership programs in Nepal. The winner of Mr Nepal Oceania 2016 is a well-known member of the Nepalese diaspora in Australia who regularly engages in community affairs.
Mr Shrestha wants to win the election in order to set an example not only for youths interested in mainstream politics but also for young members of the Australian Nepalese diaspora who happens to be one of the fastest growing migrant community of the continent.
As a Liberal candidate, Pjay is currently focused on the highly multicultural electorate of Barton. However, community members say the young man is very likely to attract both Labor and Liberal votes so far as the 3000 odd voters in Barton who belong to the Nepalese diaspora.
“It is however good to see my opponent party is taking such an interest in the Nepalese community at the moment. A great example to show when we are united, the better it is for all of our community members,” he said.
The Morrison Liberal team member says he has met voters from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds during his campaign trail who apparently told him that although they voted all sorts of political parties throughout their life, this time they would vote for him just because they want to try someone “fresh and young” to see how he would fare against the rest.
“The response is so much better than expected!” Mr Shretha exclaimed.
The Nepalese diaspora has supporters of both Liberal and Labor parties. As a result, federal leaders from either side have been increasingly participating in community events in an obvious attempt to woo Nepalese-speaking voters. Only two days ago, David Coleman announced that Coalition would extend $1 million towards establishing a Nepalese community centre should it come back to power.
Sydney has the largest presence of Nepalese-speaking voters with greater concentration in suburbs like Rockdale, Hurstville, Auburn and Granville.