Labor's newest senator has promised to be a fierce advocate for vulnerable workers.
In her first speech to the upper house on Wednesday, South Australia's Karen Grogan said she aimed to be a voice for those marginalised in the community.
"I've seen first-hand the challenges and inequalities people have, indeed I have lived them," Senator Grogan said.
"Working in these areas I have seen the challenges, but I have also seen the opportunities and solutions, and I want to be part of the team fighting to bring these to fruition."
Senator Grogan came into the position "under sad circumstances", following the death of Alex Gallacher earlier this year.
Prior to her stint in federal parliament, Senator Grogan was the national political coordinator of the United Workers Union and was the head of the South Australian Council of Social Service.
Her political work has already seen her work as a staffer to Labor frontbencher Mark Butler and former premier Jay Weatherill.
Senator Grogan spoke of her upbringing at the "world's end" at a London housing estate, before moving to Australia in the 1990s.
She told of her experience of no longer having a safe place to live while pregnant, which prompted a lot of her later advocacy work.
"My unborn baby was sick, and my partner couldn't handle the thought of a sick baby and left," she said.
"I was a contract worker who could no longer work due to sickness and I ended up sleeping on the floor of my friend's place. I was 14,000 miles away from my family and scared.
"That experience, feeling powerless and scared, being judged for being poor, made me absolutely determined to make things better for other people."
She said the recent experiences of COVID-19 on many employment sectors had exposed how vulnerable some workers were.
"COVID-19 has highlighted just how fragile and precarious our industrial relations system is," she said.
"The binary approach to the haves and have nots ignores the fact the success of a business is reliant on the strength of its workers."
Australian Associated Press
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