Biography of Senator the Hon Penny Wong

Penny Wong was born in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Her family moved to Australia in 1976, when she was eight years old, and settled in Adelaide. She studied law and arts at the University of Adelaide. After university she worked for the trade union covering furniture industry employees, taking part in campaigns to improve pay and conditions for the union’s members, including poorly-paid female migrants working in upholstery workshops.

She worked as an adviser to the NSW Labor Government where she helped develop forests policy, and then as a barrister, before being elected to the Senate for the Australian Labor Party in 2001. Senator Wong has been re-elected four times - in 2007, 2013, 2016 and 2022.

With the election of the Rudd Government in 2007, she was appointed Minister for Climate Change and Water. In this position she significantly expanded the Renewable Energy Target, which has driven significant investment in wind and solar power. She also represented Australia in international climate change negotiations and developed the Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme, a market based mechanism to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in the most economically efficient way.

After the federal election of 2010, Senator Wong was appointed as Minister for Finance and Deregulation. As Finance Minister she worked with Treasurer Wayne Swan to deliver three Budgets in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. She also implemented a policy to ensure women are considered for appointments to senior positions in government agencies and corporations.

In 2013 Senator Wong was elected Leader of the Government in the Senate and, after the change of government in 2013, became Leader of the Opposition in the Senate – the first woman to hold either of these roles.

She served as Shadow Foreign Minister for six years before the election of the Albanese Government in 2022, when she was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wong seeks to rebuild Australia’s reputation as partner of choice - drawing on all elements of our national power – to build a stable and prosperous region, where sovereignty is respected and the rules of the road are upheld.

As a proud representative of South Australia in the federal Parliament she has advocated for her State’s interests, including safeguarding the future sustainability of the Murray River and advancing the State’s economy.

Senator Wong lives in Adelaide with her partner and their daughters. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, shopping at the Central Market and, from time to time, enjoying one of South Australia’s great wines.