Growing up in Logan, newly appointed Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said he only had a ‘vague’ idea about what he wanted to do with his life when he decided to study at Griffith University.
The Bachelor of Commerce graduate says prior to attending university he had never met anyone involved in politics, let alone a member of the Labor Party.
“I wasn’t from a political family, so discovering politics and Paul Keating was a real epiphany,” Dr Chalmers, Australia’s 41st Treasurer, said.
The Griffith Business School graduate is among 10 alumni elected to the 47th Parliament as Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, including five appointed to key portfolio areas in Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first ministry.
Dr Chalmers’ desire to enter politics was influenced by his upbringing in Logan in Brisbane’s south, a community that is socioeconomically disadvantaged in some areas.
He also credits an, “inspirational high school teacher who was the first to tell me even people with a background like mine could help shape our politics and, through that, our country”.
“I showed up at Griffith with a pretty vague idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but it gave me a real structure and foundation to that ambition.
“People like Pat Weller in the politics school (at Griffith) showed an interest in me and encouraged me from the beginning, as did a number of others there,” Dr Chalmers said.
Patrick Weller is now a Professor Emeritus in the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University.
“I owe Griffith so much,” Dr Chalmers said. “I wouldn’t be here without my time there, and that’s why I’ve tried to stay as involved as possible in the life of the uni.”
As for the best advice he has been given, Mr Chalmers said, “if you’ve got the capacity to speak up for other people and stand up for other people then you have a responsibility to.”
Paying that forward, he offers the following words of advice to Griffith students.
“Don’t waste the opportunities that Griffith provides; find ways to meet as many other people as possible, spend time outside your comfort zone now and it will pay off later.”
In a twist of fate, on his first day at Griffith in 1996, the young Chalmers met Anthony Chisholm, who was undertaking a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and Government).
Mr Chisholm, who joined the ALP at 17, became a Queensland senator in 2016 and was recently named Assistant Minister for Education and Assistant Minister for Regional Development in Mr Albanese’s government.
Among the other Griffith alumni appointed to key portfolio areas in the new Federal Government are Chris Bowen (Master of International Relations as Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Justine Elliot (Graduate Diploma of Human Resources and Industrial Relations) as Assistant Minister for Social Services and Assistant Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, and Anika Wells (Bachelor of Arts – Politics and Government) named Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Sports.
Other Griffith alumni include Member for Moncrieff Angie Bell (Graduate Certificate in Marketing), Member for Warringah Zali Steggall (Bachelor of Arts – Media and Communication), Member for Bonner Ross Vasta (Bachelor of Commerce) and Queensland Senators Larissa Waters (Bachelor of Science) and James McGrath (Bachelor of Commerce).
Professor Glyn Davis, a former Vice Chancellor at Griffith, has also been named the new Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, becoming the nation’s most senior public servant.
Vice Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans congratulated all Griffith alumni elected to the 47th Parliament of Australia.
“We aim to unleash the potential of our people and make a difference in our communities and Griffith is extremely proud of each of our alumni who have been elected to both Houses of parliament.”