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Penny Wong was born in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Her family moved to Australia in 1976, when she was eight years old, and settled in Adelaide. She studied law and arts at the University of Adelaide. After university she worked for the trade union covering furniture industry employees, taking part in campaigns to improve pay and conditions for the union’s members, including poorly-paid female migrants working in upholstery workshops.
She worked as an adviser to the NSW Labor Government where she helped develop forests policy, and then as a barrister, before being elected to the Senate for the Australian Labor Party in 2001. Senator Wong has been re-elected four times - in 2007, 2013, 2016 and 2022.
With the election of the Rudd Government in 2007, she was appointed Minister for Climate Change and Water. In this position she significantly expanded the Renewable Energy Target, which has driven significant investment in wind and solar power. She also represented Australia in international climate change negotiations and developed the Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme, a market based mechanism to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in the most economically efficient way.
After the federal election of 2010, Senator Wong was appointed as Minister for Finance and Deregulation. As Finance Minister she worked with Treasurer Wayne Swan to deliver three Budgets in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. She also implemented a policy to ensure women are considered for appointments to senior positions in government agencies and corporations.
In 2013 Senator Wong was elected Leader of the Government in the Senate and, after the change of government in 2013, became Leader of the Opposition in the Senate – the first woman to hold either of these roles.
She served as Shadow Foreign Minister for six years before the election of the Albanese Government in 2022, when she was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wong seeks to rebuild Australia’s reputation as partner of choice - drawing on all elements of our national power – to build a stable and prosperous region, where sovereignty is respected and the rules of the road are upheld.
As a proud representative of South Australia in the federal Parliament she has advocated for her State’s interests, including safeguarding the future sustainability of the Murray River and advancing the State’s economy.
Senator Wong lives in Adelaide with her partner and their daughters. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, shopping at the Central Market and, from time to time, enjoying one of South Australia’s great wines.
about Penny Wong
Penelope Ying-Yen Wong, born on November 5, 1968, is an Australian politician serving as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Government in the Senate in the Albanese Government since 2022. She is a member of the Australian Labor Party and has been a Senator for South Australia since 2002. She previously served as the Minister for Climate Change and Minister for Finance and Deregulation during the governments of Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard from 2007 until 2013. Wong was born in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, to a Chinese Malaysian father and a British Australian mother. She was educated at Scotch College in Adelaide and the University of Adelaide, where she graduated with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees. Prior to beginning her political career, she worked as a lawyer and political advisor. Wong entered politics by winning a Senate seat in the 2001 election.
Following Labor’s victory in the 2007 election, she was appointed Minister for Climate Change, where she led for Australia at the landmark 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Following the 2010 election, Wong was appointed Minister for Finance and Deregulation, and in June 2013, she was elected by her colleagues to become Leader of the Government in the Senate. Following Labor’s defeat in the 2013 election, Wong held several roles in the Shadow Cabinets of both Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese, serving as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate throughout. Upon Labor’s victory at the 2022 election, Wong was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and resumed her role as Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Wong has been described by her biographer as “principled, intellectual, private, restrained and sane”. In 2008, she became the first Asian-Australian in an Australian Cabinet. She was also the first openly LGBTI Australian federal parliamentarian and played an instrumental role in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia in 2017. A 2022 study conducted by Roy Morgan Research found Wong to be the most trusted politician in Australia among respondents.
Wong grew up speaking dialects of Malay, Chinese, and English. At five years old, she began attending Kinabalu International School. After her parents separated, she moved to Adelaide, South Australia, at the age of eight with her mother and younger brother. Wong gained a scholarship to Scotch College, Adelaide, where she studied chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Wong graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Jurisprudence and a Bachelor of Laws with Honours at the University of Adelaide, and completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the University of South Australia.
Wong entered politics by winning a Senate seat in the 2001 election. She has been involved in various political positions and leadership roles since then.
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