Victoria’s 48th Premier Daniel Andrews was one of the state’s most divisive leaders, so his shock resignation on September 26 attracted more than the usual amount of attention. Soon after, Deputy Premier Jacinta Allen was elected unanimously and unopposed to take on the biggest job in Victoria. She was the youngest women ever to be elected to Victorian parliament and is now the second woman ever to lead it. She has – as she acknowledged in her first speech as Premier – a lot of work ahead and has pledged to continue to work incredibly hard to represent her community.
A young trailblazer
Jacinta Marie Allan first entered Parliament in 1999, having wrestled an election win from the hands of Liberal incumbent, Michael John, at just 25-years of age. She was the first woman to represent Bendigo and entered parliament as part of the record number of women to claim victory when Steve Bracks swept to power.
A country girl born-and-raised, Jacinta made her commitment to regional Victoria clear from the start. When she addressed parliament for the first time, she wore two pins on her lapels. The first – Bendigo’s poppet head logo, signified her commitment to her community. The second, an Emily’s List brooch, was as a show of support for women and their allies.
“It is extremely important that the ranks of parliamentarians reflect the make-up of the society they represent, be they urban or rural, young or old, male or female, gay, indigenous or from non-English-speaking backgrounds.”
She quickly proved herself to be hardworking and ambitious. She told The Age last year that, at the time, she was conscious that she was a very young woman.
“The way I approached it was to always do my homework,” Jacinta said. She also described herself as “a real Hermione Granger”, who is the bookish best-friend of Harry Potter whose focus and intelligence often saves the day.
Jacinta’s tenacity was recognised and rewarded in 2002 when then-Premier Steve Bracks made her Victoria’s youngest ever cabinet minister. At 29 she became Minister for Youth Affairs, Minister for Employment and Minister for Education Services. Her colleague Tim Holding, who was also 29, was elevated to cabinet at the same time. According to The Herald Sun, Steve Bracks declared that one of the two would one day lead the state.
Tim Holding, a handsome ex-Army reservist, may have seemed like the front-runner in an Australia that was yet to be led by a female Prime Minister. More than two decades later, Tim has decamped to France where he is restoring an 18th Century chateau, and Jacinta has just been sworn in as Victoria’s 49th Premier.
Who is Jacinta Allan?
Her parliamentary colleagues call her JA, and she has been a political animal from the start. Raised in Bendigo, and educated at a Catholic High School, it was her campaign against a table-top bar dancing club in her hometown that elevated her from active local Labor supporter to a potential political candidate.
Jacinta interned for Lindsay Tanner, the former Federal Finance Minister and Member for Melbourne, before her pre-selection as the Labor candidate for her hometown. Her win in the historically conservative seat help oust the Kennet government and usher in a new era for Victoria.
“I can remember being in young Labor and going along to functions when she became a minister and thinking: ‘Wow’,” says friend and Federal Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters.
“She just broke every stereotype that you had for being a government minister. She was young, she was a woman, she was fun, and she was really grounded all at the same time.”
Once she entered cabinet, Jacinta remained part of Labor’s leadership team. She has run complex, high profile portfolios including Transport and Infrastructure, Industry and Trade, Rural and Regional development and served as Deputy Premier.
She has been responsible for overseeing huge infrastructure projects including the construction of the Metro Tunnel, the Suburban Rail Loop and the Level Crossings project, which removed 75 of the most dangerous crossings from the rail network.
However, she was also Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery, and Daniel Andrew’s abrupt decision to cancel the games prompted Opposition leader John Pesutto to call for Jacinta to be sacked.
Lisa, who was elected in 2013, says Jacinta has been a strong advocate for the region, and a supportive political colleague.
“As I went around door-knocking the first thing people would say was, you’re not replacing Jacinta are you?” Lisa says.
The former Deputy Premier of Victoria is from Labor’s socialist left faction, which is the same faction as her predecessor Daniel Andrews. On her first speech, she paid tribute to “the fabulous Daniel Andrews” and later told The ABC he had been “a tremendous friend” and a “tremendous colleague”.
However, she will be unveiling a new cabinet, to draw a line between the old guard and the new.
Does Jacinta Allan have children?
Jacinta is married to former Ministerial advisor Yorick Piper and has two “beautiful, wonderful” children, Peggy and Cormac, and two dogs, who she lives with on a regional property.
Jacinta’s father was an SEC worker, and proud union member. She referenced her union-movement roots, and the values she was raised with after being elected on Wednesday.
“My mother and father have given me the foundation of everything I have done in my professional and personal life,” Jacinta said, citing the values of hard work, and creating equal opportunities and equal outcomes. “It’s those values that I carry forward through to this day and onward,” she said.
Lisa says for Jacinta, family and friends are paramount.
“Even though she’s one of the busiest women in Australia she does hold her family and friends close.”
She always remembers birthdays, Lisa says. She has been a generous mentor, and even threw Lisa a baby-shower.
In Bendigo earlier this year, Jacinta joined The Weekly for the opening of its 90th birthday exhibition at The Bendigo Gallery. Afterwards she shared her memories of growing up with Weekly birthday cakes.
“Like countless Australian families we were a Women’s Weekly birthday cake book family,” Jacinta shared on Instagram in May.
“My mum made masterpieces for my brother and I year after year. I learnt from my mum how to bake and the joy of making birthday cakes for my kids and now have mum by my side as we share the blood, sweat and tears of birthday cake making inspired by the Women’s Weekly.”
Jacinta is the longest serving female minister in Victorian state history, equal longest serving Labor Minister, and the most senior sitting member of Victoria’s Lowest House. Yet it seems JA’s political story is just getting started.
“She was such a young woman and had won it against the odds,” Lisa says, recalling Jacinta’s 1999 victory. “Everyone wanted to meet this amazing woman who’d done the unthinkable. It’s one of those stories that you tell young women getting into politics: Have you heard about Jacinta Allan? This is how she did it. It can be done.”