The first Greek Australian woman to be elected to Federal Parliament will be taking a permanent break from politics come the next elections.

Maria Vamvakinou, representing the Melbourne seat of Calwell for over two decades, commented to Neos Kosmos on her decision.

“I spoke to the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago. And now, of course, we’ve made it public.

“I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while. I’ve discussed it with myself, my family, and we had pretty much decided that this would be my last term.”

It will be 24 years next year since Vamvakinou entered politics.

“It’s almost a quarter of a lifetime.”

The Lefkada-born politician who arrived in Australia with her family in 1963 at the age of four, has said that she became politically active during her high school years, while standing in solidarity with classmates who were political refugees.

“I joined one of my Uruguayan friends in going to Trades Hall to hand out leaflets. I ended up staying there and helping out the migrant workers committee. It kind of all started there,” she told SBS News.

Vamvakinou served first as a secondary-school teacher before becoming the first woman born in Greece to be elected Federal MP in Australia.

She has been a vocal proponent of diversity in political representation and has often become the federal voice backing issues close to the heart of multicultural communities, including the Palestinian issue.

In the aftermath of the October 7 attacks, she was the one government MP to attend a pro-Palestine protest outside Parliament House in Canberra.

In announcing her retirement the veteran Labor member officially endorsed Basem Abdo – a Palestinian Australian born in Kuwait to parents from a village in the occupied West Bank as her preferred replacement.

Vamvakinou knows Abdo who’s worked for her on two occasions, “since he left university”.

“His background as Palestinian is becoming more relevant at the moment because of what’s going on in Palestine.

“His family are refugees from Palestine. So, he has a deep understanding of the complexity of the issue.

“And this is a complex issue.”

She says she believes Abdo will continue the advocacy for Palestine and beyond.

“He’s got interest in manufacturing, migration, multiculturalism, all that. He grew up in the area, he knows the area well, so he fits the electorate very well.”

While her endorsement is official, the party’s final say will not be revealed for several weeks.

“We’ll have to wait for preselection.”

Protesters scuffle with other a police officers during a pro-Palestinian rally in Melbourne on Sunday, 9 June 9, 2024. Photo: AAP/James Ross

Australia moving towards the recognition of Palestine is an issue the Veteran Labor MP has been advocating for.

“If we don’t get to that point where the Palestinians have their own self-reliance […] And things have to happen. So, you know, I hope that our government will get to that point like a lot of other European countries did last week.”

In May, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reiterated the Australian government’s “longstanding position” in support of a two state-solution.

“The right of Israel to exist within secure borders, the right of Israelis to go about their lives in safety and security with prosperity, but also the fundamental right of Palestinians to have safety, security and prosperity as well,” she said.