Trigger Warning: This story discusses mental health and suicide. If you are experiencing similar thoughts and live in Australia, you can contact Lifeline at 13 11 14. For LGBTQ-focused support, call QLife at 1800 184 527 or webchat. And if you live in the U.S., call or text 988.
An Australian MP is going viral for his powerful and heartfelt first speech in office.
Stephen Bates has made history. Not only is he the newest openly gay member of AU Parliament, but he’s also the first member of his party (Greens) to be elected for the seat of Brisbane. In his first speech to federal parliament on Wednesday, Bates shared that his experience working poverty-wage jobs and being gay.
Bates shared that he did not come from a wealthy family. His father was a musician and his mother worked in the world of ballet. As for him, all of his previous work was either in hospitality or frontline retail. One particular job at Disneyworld in the US specifically changed him. Witnessing a coworker cry over deciding between paying rent or buying insulin informed his opinions on workers’ rights.
He shared, “As I stand in this chamber today, I acknowledge that I am just one voice, that I have a responsibility to the community of Brisbane who sent me here, to young people across the country who expect much of me, and to the queer community that I’m proud to be a part of.”
As for being gay, Stephen Bates shared that he grew up afraid of his sexual orientation. So now as an adult, he hopes to be the representation he didn’t get.
“I spent my teenage years knowing I was gay and doing everything in my power to hide it,” he told parliament. “I made a promise to myself once I came out that if I ever found myself in a public role, that I will be open and proud of who I am.”
Bates added, “That I would be the person that I never saw growing up, because if I can even help one person out there, then this life would have all been worth it.”
Stephen Bates also noted how he wants to advocate for those battling mental health. To spotlight this, he shared the story of a 24-year-old resident named Maya Birch who took her own life earlier this year.
Yes, that is a rainbow winged Ibis on my lapel
— Stephen Bates (@stephenbatesmp) July 27, 2022
“Maya is just one name in a long list of people who have had their lives cut short because of government inaction,” Mr Bates said. “The decisions we make in this place impact people’s ability to survive. It is my job now to make sure that Maya’s death was not in vain.”
Stephen Bates also acknowledged that he is one of the youngest members of Australia’s parliament.
“I’ve heard many times that I’m too young for politics and I don’t seem like a politician, which is a compliment, but it is these traits that got me here today,” he said. “This election has shown that people in this country are done with the status quo.”
Good luck to Stephen Bates, we look forward to seeing what you’ll do!