In WA’s incoming parliament, set to resume on April 29, former teachers will form a considerable portion of elected members in the Legislative Assembly.
The lower house will see eleven former teachers and education professionals out of 59 members, making teaching the most common former profession in the lower house, greater than lawyers, defence professionals, social workers and local government representatives.
Five of these members are newly elected, having been part of Labor’s landslide win over the Liberals in March.
Member for Wanneroo and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier Sabine Winton was a primary school teacher for 27 years before entering politics at the 2017 Election.
Ms Winton said although she doesn’t think teachers naturally make effective politicians, their career gives them a wealth of skills and experiences that can be vital to a political career.
“I think teachers in essence, good teachers who really love the profession, are really in their heart, advocates. And a good politician, at their core, is someone who wants to advocate for other people,” she said.
When asked why teachers are so well represented in the lower house, Ms Winton said the Labor Party “for the last few years in particular, has done really well in their pre-selection process in terms of identifying people who are connected in local communities. And I think, not by coincidence, that happens to be a lot of teachers”.
Caitlin Collins, recently elected to the seat of Hillarys, said her experience as a high school teacher will be invaluable to her political career.
“Teachers, probably more so than other occupations, are quite political people. We all talk about education, we all talk about the need for reforms in certain aspects of our area,” she said.
“Teachers are really engaged citizens … they’ve taught subjects like politics, so they’re very much aware of the structures and processes in place, but they’re also aware of the importance of politics in our day-to-day lives. … It’s literally our job to express to students the importance of being active citizens.”
Other notable former teachers in the WA cabinet include Minister for Tourism David Templeman and Secretary to the Minister of Education Terry Healy.
In Mr Healy’s 2017 inaugural speech, he said he was proud of his time as a teacher. He said, “I stand here as a former teacher … I seek to be a champion of all schools: all students, educators and families. Although I am honoured to be the representative for Southern River, I already greatly miss being a teacher in Southern River.”
The teachers in the Legislative Assembly will join two former teachers in the Legislative Council, as well as numerous past teachers in politics, such as former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, former US President Lyndon B. Johnson and current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.