PUP candidate fights off racism as campaign turns nasty
MANDEEP Sandhu has come a long way from a girl living in northern India to the hurly-burly of the Toowoomba political scene.
She is a member of the growing Indian community in the city and represents the changing demographics of the region.
Mrs Sandhu came to Australia as an 18-year-old after an arranged marriage, has worked in the health and IT industries and has now lived in her adopted country for 26 years.
The Palmer United Party Toowoomba North candidate said that being a woman and a migrant in Toowoomba would give her a valuable perspective.
"So far, it's only been a short campaign, but I already received my first racist comment on my Facebook page.
"It told me that I'm not an Anglo-Saxon, I'm an Indian and I should go back there and represent myself in India, no imports, leave the country.
"Those kinds of things give me a different perspective to the way I look at things. I can empathise with a lot of people."
She said she was in a unique situation with a foot on either side of the city.
"I have an Australian view, but I do have an Indian background and am quite involved in the Indian community, so I also have the migrant point of view as well."
Mrs Sandhu, a Sikh, said she very proud to be a "Toowoomba-ite".
"I feel strongly that we need to fight for Toowoomba and make ourselves less Brisbane-centric and have a community where we can be our own entity," she said.
The PUP candidate said the Indian community in Toowoomba was going from strength to strength.
"When I came here in 2003, there were no spice shops and hardly any restaurants.
"But now there are many of those.
"Each year, we take part in the multicultural festival and I organise a get-together for the three major festivals that we have in India."
"We are going forward and we are gaining in strength.
"The Indian community has been fantastic with integrating into the Toowoomba society and we are doing well," Mrs Sandhu said.