‘It’s kind of unreal’: new citizens feel the ‘power’ of voting in Australia for the first time

For Jamshid Mirzaee, this federal election has been a first in many ways.

It is the first time he has voted, for anything; the first election campaign he’s seen and the first time he has felt recognised as a citizen of Australia.

“I felt powerful, it was my first time and I have just become a citizen as well – everyone is going to be counted,” he said after pre-polling ahead of Saturday’s federal election.

“I am the only Australian citizen in my family, and it felt like I had the power to make changes in this country.”

Mirzaee was born in Afghanistan and came to Australia from Iran in 2016. He was granted citizenship earlier this year.

He decided to pre-poll and said he was initially confused by the process.

“一开始, I found it a bit hard, they gave me the two papers, one was the big one and the other small, with all these names on it, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I ended up selecting the names that I knew; my first choice was the Greens and second was Labor.”

Mirzaee lives in the marginal seat of Parramatta and said he hopes whoever wins on Saturday will improve the lives of refugees and migrants.

“I hope this election will result in good changes for us, especially for refugees, for migrants, for those who are waiting to be permanent.”

The Australian Electoral Commission estimates about 440,000 new citizens will cast a vote for the first time in 2022.

Farzana Mazari was 14 when she arrived from Pakistan in 2017. The now 19-year-old is embracing the opportunity to help shape the country’s future.

“I have already voted, and it felt good,“ 她说.

“It felt like I have the right to have a say, no matter what. We should, and do, have the right to decide who the prime minister will be.”

Mazari said she wanted to vote for the party with the most open refugee policy – which she believed was Labor. “I know how hard the process was, I know how hard it can get, and I hope it improves in the future,“ 她说.

Simon Deng was born in Sudan, moved to Kenya when he was six and arrived in Australia in 2015. He is now a second-year student at university and excited to vote for the first time on Saturday.

“I never thought I’d have a voice in Australia, it’s kind of unreal, I never saw this coming, it’s been a great experience,” Deng said.

“It’s a power that we have, it feels good to know your voice actually can make a difference. This is the voice of the people, we’re obviously not going to say everything, but we do get a say.”

Deng said he would be voting Labor because he liked their policies – particularly on childcare. He said he had enjoyed seeing the campaign play out across the country.

“People are so cooperative here, campaigns in other countries can be much worse. 这里, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on, you’re just not going to go hard out on someone, I like the respect they have for each other.”

But Deng did acknowledge “it could have been more interesting, hey?”