Australia’s Famous Breastfeeding Senator Has Resigned

Larissa Waters discovered a citizenship rule that makes her ineligible to sit in Senate

Australian Senator, Larissa Waters, who made headlines internationally this May after she became the first woman to breastfeed her baby in Australian Parliament, has had to resign her seat after she learned that a citizenship rule made her ineligible to serve in Senate.

Australia’s constitution states that a “citizen of foreign power” is not eligible to be elected to Parliament, meaning that Australians who hold dual citizenship with another country cannot run. Another senator, Scott Ludlam, had recently discovered his dual citizenship made him ineligible and resigned after he realized his oversight. His action prompted Waters to look into her own citizenship record.

Waters was born in Winnipeg in 1977—her Aussie parents were students at the time and residing briefly in Canada—but she moved to Australia when she was only 11 months old. She has not been back since.

“I have lived my life thinking that as a baby I was naturalized to be Australian and only Australian,” said Waters, “and my parents told me that I had until age 21 to actively pursue Canadian citizenship.”

In an especially cruel twist of fate, Waters would have been safe from the rule if she had been born a mere 7 days earlier. The law was changed a week after she was born.

And as if there wasn’t already enough salt in the wound, Waters and Ludlam could also possibly be required to pay back their salaries for the terms they have served.

Waters is Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens. Shortly after she made headlines for breastfeeding her baby while Senate was in session, she made headlines again when she rose to address the chamber and give a brief speech while nursing her baby. (Casual #MomBoss move, eh?) Waters said of the incident, “I hope [this] helps to normalize breastfeeding and remove any vestige of stigma against breastfeeding a baby when they are hungry."

She regularly brought her infant to work with her and was an advocate for both breastfeeding and making workplaces more family friendly.

Waters said via Twitter that she resigns “with a heavy heart”.

It seems a needless waste to have passionate public servants barred from working because of a dual citizenship—after all, they are all still Australian citizens. Australia has now lost two members of Parliament in just a week, and many expect that more will be forced to follow now that the rule has become common knowledge.

There is no such rule in Canada. Many of our MPs are dual citizens, and we have even had a few foreign-born Prime Ministers. 

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