Lucy Gichuhi, a Kenyan-born lawyer has made history as the first of African descent to be elected to the Australian Federal Parliament.
Gichuhi was elected to fill the South Australia Senate seat vacancy created by the high court’s decision to rule that her fellow Family First candidate Bob Day was ineligible to hold office because he had an ‘indirect pecuniary interest’ in an agreement with the commonwealth.
Confirming Gichuhi’s election, a South Australian political source says Gichuhi’s election was confirmed at a special recount conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission on Thursday, making her the first person of African descent elected to federal parliament.
In a statement after her confirmation, Lucy Gichuhi who migrated to Australia in 1999 and became an Australian in 2001 said:
“I am honoured and grateful for this opportunity to serve Australia. I see it as an opportunity to give back to this great nation.
“I do not intend on commenting on the processes that have brought us to this point. As a lawyer, I am deeply respectful of both the legal and electoral processes.
“I am an Australian citizen and am eligible to serve. I will continue to take advice on all of these matters as we move forward.”
The Family First member who came second behind her fellow candidate, Bob Day, received Mr Day’s votes in the recount, all but confirming her the upper house seat and $200,000-a-year job. She is due to be sworn-in on May 9, when parliament resumes after its autumn break.
However, questions have been raised about Lucy Gichuhi’s eligibility to be elected after she refused to clarify when she renounced her Kenyan citizenship. The country’s High commission has said she “never applied for dual citizenship”.
Under the Constitution, a person with dual citizenship cannot be elected. After Gichuhi migrated to Australia with her family in 1999, she became involved with Family First soon after it began in 2001.
After failing to secure a seat at the election, she had “moved on” and volunteered as a family lawyer with the Women’s Legal Service for the past several months.
While the Adelaide-based lawyer has not officially been named as ex-senator Bob Day’s replacement, the matter will return to the High Court next week for the declaration.
The high court found Day was ineligible to be a senator because he had an “indirect pecuniary interest” in an agreement with the commonwealth. The ruling came after he had already resigned in November over the liquidation of his building companies.
His eligibility was referred to the high court on 8 November to determine if he had an indirect interest in the lease of his Adelaide electorate office by the commonwealth, in breach of section 44 of the constitution.
Fullarton Investments, an entity that bought the 77 Fullarton Road property from the Day family trust on a vendor finance basis, was to receive rent from the commonwealth and use it to pay back the trust, although no rent was ever paid.
A majority of the court found that Day was ineligible from 26 February 2016, the date on which Fullarton Investments directed the commonwealth to pay rent to a bank account owned by Day. The ruling had no impact on votes cast by Day during his time in the Senate, which are all still valid