Sydney (CNN)A Malaysian-born gay woman could become Australia's new foreign minister if the opposition Labor Party wins a tightly contested election next week.
Senator Penny Wong would be the third consecutive woman to take on the role, but the first Australian foreign minister of Asian heritage and the highest-ranking gay politician in a parliament typically dominated by conservative white men.
In a recent speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Wong said if Labor wins the election on May 18, her elevation to foreign minister would send a broader message to the world about Australia's values as a multicultural nation.
"What would be significant... is what it says about us. What it says about who we are," she said. "Narratives matter, as do perceptions. There are times when Australia's past attitudes on race can be evoked in ways which are neither accurate nor helpful."
Wong, 50, was born in the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo and moved to the Australian city of Adelaide with her parents in the 1970s when she was eight.
The Australian suburbs were very different from her early years in Borneo. "I remember feeling like I didn't belong for quite a while," Wong told CNN affiliate SBS. "I remember my first day at school. That was a bit hard, actually," she said.
"I was probably the first Asian a lot of those kids had ever seen, and I remember things being said as we walked in to go to enroll. I remember people making com