Dr Mehreen Faruqi and Cosmo

2022, oil on linen, 160 x 122 cm

Dr Mehreen Faruqi is the Greens’ senator for New South Wales. In 2013, she joined NSW State Parliament, becoming the first Muslim woman to sit in an Australian parliament. In 2018, Mehreen became Australia’s first Muslim senator. She has been a passionate advocate against racism and misogyny. In this large-scale portrait Mehreen sits with her beloved rescued greyhound Cosmo against a background of magnolias symbolically arranged in the shape of the Southern Cross, to signify belonging and connection under Australian stars.

Cosmo the magnificent

A gorgeous rescued greyhound, Cosmo is Mehreen’s beloved companion. Mehreen has been a leading voice in opposition to the greyhound racing industry, privatisation of public transport, and removal of laws that protect native vegetation.

In addition to the symbolic Southern Cross arrangement of the magnolias, they also signify personal stories and social issues. Since emigrating from Pakistan in 1992 and completing her doctorate at the University of New South Wales, Mehreen has worked in leadership positions for local government, consulting firms and as an academic in Australia and internationally. The magnolias represent a personal story for Mehreen, on studying his PhD at UNSW, Mehreen’s father used to send a pressed flower to her mother in Pakistan every week - to remind her that he was thinking of her every day. Those pressed flowers Mehreen saw as a child were the ubiquitous Southern magnolia - seen in parks and gardens across Sydney and now a young tree grows in her own garden.

Fighting for Women's rights
Flowers are also symbolic of reproduction. Mehreen has been involved in feminist and anti-racist activism throughout her life. She introduced the first ever bill to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales and eventually resulting in the closure of pregnancy discrimination loopholes. Mehreen’s work for reproductive rights was recognised with the feminist Edna Ryan Grand Stirrer award in 2017 “for inciting others to challenge the status quo”. Her “Love Letters to Mehreen” series has highlighted the online harassment, bullying and toxicity experienced by women of colour in public life.

Mehreen has been named one of the 100 most influential engineers in Australia and received the UNSW Faculty of Engineering Award for Leadership and remains a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia and a member of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand.