Labor MLAs Meegan Fitzharris and Chris Bourke will join the ACT Ministry following a caucus ballot this morning, but their portfolios will not be known until Chief Minister Andrew Barr announces the result of a broader cabinet reshuffle in coming days.
The promotion of Ms Fitzharris and Dr Bourke was not a surprise given the impending retirement of the only other potential candidate, Mary Porter, and Mr Barr’s announcement following Joy Burch’s resignation from cabinet on Tuesday that he would increase the ministry to seven.
Dr Bourke is making a return to the front bench, while Ms Fitzharris is a debutante, having only joined the Legislative Assembly on a countback a little over a year ago when then Chief Minister and Molonglo MLA Katy Gallagher resigned to pursue a career in Federal politics.
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Mr Barr said the pair would bring the renewal he was looking for in his team this year, with the right mix of experience and fresh ideas.
“Meegan Fitzharris has spent over a year in the ACT Assembly and has demonstrated her capability and advocacy skills as a vocal member for the Gungahlin region. Meegan will bring enthusiasm to a renewed Ministry.
“Dr Chris Bourke has been a member of the ACT Legislative Assembly since 2008 and was a Minister in the previous government. His experience will be vital in the Cabinet and I look forward to his contribution.”
Ms Fitzharris is a former chief-of-staff to Mr Barr and the only Gungahlin resident in the Assembly. New Zealand born, she has lived in Australia since 1998 and Canberra since 2000.
Her public policy experience includes stints with the NSW Police during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, as a senior policy manager for the Australian Federal Police and in the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.
Dr Bourke became the first indigenous Australian elected to the Assembly when he filled the vacancy left by the resignation of Jon Stanhope in 2011. He has previously served as Minister of Education, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Corrections.
The Ginninderra representative became the first Indigenous Australian to complete a dentistry degree in 1982 and has worked as a locum dentist in remote areas of Australia as well as in private practice.