Sujit Mathew’s political dream is idealistic in nature. He is all for climate change, the environment, very much in sync with the need of the times. He loves to talk and is often animated by conversations on issues that aims to connect with the people he purports to represent.
India-born Mathew is the Federal candidate for The Greens from Holt, an outer south-eastern suburb of Melbourne. “I am committed to fighting for climate action to ensure a healthy environment and a healthy economy,” he declares at the outset.
So how did a relatively new migrant (Mathew arrived in Australia in 2013) take a plunge headlong into politics?
“Politics have always interested me. It was not a sudden choice, I always felt I would be good at it,” says Mathew.
But the main reason was prompted by what he felt was the lack of representation of other ethnic backgrounds or brown people in Australian parliaments.
“Just to give an example, even though Australia is a very multicultural country, if we take the Senates and the House of Representatives and even, say, high public services, the Asian representation is very low. I feel I could be one of the examples where the Indian community or others could have more voices, which we need at the moment,” says Mathew.
Having worked in the field of policy development and sustainable growth and energy, The Greens was an obvious choice for Mathew. “They have a strong climate protection policy and are clear about what they want to implement for our future. They are also progressive in their thinking and towards promoting social equality and diversity.”
Although he joined the party just this May, Mathew was asked to represent Holt, which was “encouraging”.
So how does he compare the stance of The Greens in regard to other issues such as immigration politics? “In my conversations with leaders, I know we do strongly believe in open boundaries, and that immigration should be open for each and every one, not just based on skills but on humanitarian grounds as well.
“For instance, I feel strongly about the parents’ visa for Indian families, which is also a common issue for other communities. I was having a chat with a Punjabi family who had parents with no one to take care of them in India. They filed for a visa for their parents but it was going to take them 40 plus years to get through. That is unjustifiable. The other option is paying 5000-10,000 dollars for a three and five years’ visa respectively. That doesn’t give any justice for the people who are citizens of this country. The immigration policy has to be fair.”
On a hypothetical question if The Greens ceased to exist, which other party came closest party to his ideology, Mathew is clear it would be none. “I would be an independent. Climate is something close to my heart. Apart from The Greens, the other parties are least interested in achieving anything on the climate front. Most Australians care about climate change, its the politicians who do not because they are being funded by these coal and natural gas oil companies just to keep their mouth shut, so if it was not for The Greens I would have stood as an Independent candidate.”
Mathew studied Bachelor of Engineering and IT from LIMAT, India, and went on to work with various departments of Google. He soon realised community work was what he was really interested in. So, while in Singapore working for Google, he found the opportunity to do a course in Policy and Development, which opened the doors for work in sustainable development of community and refugee youth with the United Nations covering southeast Asian countries.
His career trajectory has seen variations and one that he believes confirmed his long-standing interest in community.
The move to Australia was born out of a whim, again, he says. He came on a permanent residency visa having successfully cleared the points test. But like other new migrants, Mathew struggled as he knew no one and had no support system at the start.
He also realised that finding a job in the relevant field was tough as employers looked for local experience, a common grouse of most experienced professionals coming into the country. After working for barely two months in Sydney, his first point of arrival, as support coordinator in allied health, Mathew found himself on a flight to Melbourne to attend an interview for a post of customer support with South East Water, one of three Victorian Government owned retail water corporations. He has since been with them for over seven years now.
Mathew says he had applied for the role as he loves talking. But it also gave him myriad experiences of learning to be a part of a society that is a “bit prejudiced, in a good way”. Why he says that his because as someone constantly talking to people on the phone, he has been mistaken for a call centre professional based in The Philippines. “But I understand it’s the same for me. I used to find it hard to understand strong Australian accents,” he says, with a laugh.
He loves his job and it has taught him a lot especially when it comes to communication and dealing with people and their experiences.
Mathew believes it is an exciting time to be in Australian politics given the country’s changing demography. “We need some sort of a representation now and more involvement of people from other backgrounds. The good thing is, the younger generation are seeing the need for change and want to see new faces in politics.”
Also having a mix of people means new refreshing ideas coming in, he reflects.
Mathew also views active community participation important to up that representation in politics. “I find that some people are just satisfied being the president of an organisation and hosting events. We need to change that thinking and make them aware that politics is not always bad.”
At the same time politicians should welcome members from other backgrounds and, if possible, have reservations at the start with certain electorates having the representation of certain community candidates. “That having said I am not for reservation.”
With the general elections a year away, Mathew wants first time voters to know their candidates or their local MPs.
Married for seven years and blessed with twins, it’s admirable for the young such as Mathew to be decisive about political action so early in life. And there is an element of hard work involved. Mathew is constantly in meetings and challenging himself. He is also pursuing his Master’s in Social Work from Flinders university amid the busy schedule.
How Mathew fares at the hustings next year remains to be seen. For now, he is ready to take on the pressure and work hard!
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