Zaneta Mascarenhas became the first person of Goan descent to be elected to Australia’s lower house of representatives on Saturday. Mascarenhas, an engineer by profession, was born in Australia, although her mother and father had Goa roots.
The mother-of-two is a member of the Labour Party and was elected as a Member of Parliament for Swan Division after defeating her Liberal opponent Kristy McSweeney, making her the first woman to hold the seat of Swan in its 101-year history.
In her winning speech, she said, “It’s a rather exhilarating second. I know that the people of Swan have made me the first woman to be elected as a consultant tonight. We were optimistic about the future.” She said apart from emphasizing that the environment and fighting corruption are two of her top goals in the Australian government.
In May 1979, her mother and father immigrated to Australia and resided in Kambalda, a nickel mining town where her father worked. However, she and her husband are living in East Victoria Park with their two children, Lincoln and Felicity, for the past eight years.
“My mother, father, and grandparents were all born in Goa, which was at the time a Portuguese colony. This means they were almost certainly Portuguese residents at the time of delivery. The Indian Citizenship Act does not allow for dual citizenship, and my mother and father became Australian residents in 1979, thus they lost their Indian citizenship after becoming Australian residents,” she said in the qualification standards.
Mascarenhas tried to enter politics for the first time in 2019, ahead of the Australian federal election and announced her intention to run as a Labor Party candidate for the Swan electorate. But in favour of her colleague, she decided not to contest at that time.
Mascarenhas also joins a long list of distinguished Goans to be elected as legislators in the United Kingdom. The majority of them happen to be from the Labour Party. Keith Vaz, Valerie Vaz, and Suella Fernandes, all of the Goan descent, were elected as MPs in the United Kingdom.
Suella Vaz, a newcomer to Goa, became the first female Conservative MP, a significant achievement in a party still dominated by white men.
Antonio Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal, is the son of novelist Orlando da Costa, who comes from a Goan-Portuguese family and is the first Goan-origin person to become the President of a foreign country. Nelson Souza, a Goan, served as planning minister in his previous administration, while Joo Leo, a Goan, served as finance minister.