(Article written in August 2021)
Equality, respect for humanity, fairness, and access to justice; all values Simon Millman holds in high esteem. In his first speech to the WA Parliament, Millman said: “One of the great things about Mount Lawley is it’s a very diverse community, it’s a very ethnically and culturally diverse community.
“I stand against racism and fascism, as evidenced by World War II. I stand against racism and apartheid, as evidenced by the former regime in South Africa. I think, for people that have survived and escaped those regimes, they stand as a stark reminder of the evils of that ideology or those ideologies that are driven by race and by hatred. I think that my values are built around optimism and hope and kindness, and if people aren’t in it for themselves, we can really work together to make a difference to make the world a better place.”
Born in Geelong in 1977, Millman spent his childhood talking about politics around the dinner table with his family. He developed an understanding of the Australian political system. At 19, Millman moved to Perth to study for a Bachelor of Arts at UWA. Upon finishing the degree, Millman applied for a position with Native Title. He wasn’t successful in attaining the job and applied for a law degree.
“I found out that I’d been admitted to law. David called me from Native Title, and he said the candidate that we had has dropped out. So, the job is yours if you want to. I said I’ve just applied to do more law, and he said, ‘brilliant, I’m withdrawing the offer. Study law; you’ll be much better; you’ll have much more to offer once you finished your degree.’’
As Millman didn’t come from a family of lawyers or have a legal background, he didn’t appreciate how the law fits in with society.
“During the course of studying my law degree, I developed a real appreciation for the role of legal practising in the community,” he says. “I thought that the political system was a good method for rebalancing power imbalances in society, giving people without a voice or power access to decision-making processes that can alleviate the imbalance. What I realised during my law degree is that the legal process and the legal system have the same power. It has the same ability to balance rights and interests between people.”
Upon completing his studies, Millman applied to work for his dream company, Slater and Gordon. At the interview, he was very relaxed, believing he had no chance of attaining the position. That approach won him the job. “I joined Slater and Gordon because it was a firm that represented the sort of everyday Australians that I wanted to represent,” he says.
In speaking about his study and career, Simon says he has never done anything for more than approximately 12 years.
“I spent 12 years studying at school; I spent about eight years at UWA. I got to the end of that at Slaters and sort of casting around. I thought, each day, I’m making a difference in one person’s life, with each case that I run and with each result that we achieve. But imagine if there was a way of rewriting the laws to make them fairer. Rather than just one person at a time, a whole community can benefit from a fairer, political, legal and economic system. I love the idea of a parliament where people’s voices are represented and for Mount Lawley,” he says
Millman wanted to represent the community in which he, his wife Tara, his children, Willis and Otis, and his rescue dog Jett live. Millman and his wife got married in the local church; his sons were born in the local hospital and they attend the local public primary school.
The Labor Party had never won the Mount Lawley seat. “I thought it would only be fair for the people, and I don’t mean to sound immodest when I say this, but it’s fair for the people that they have a legitimate choice between a credible Liberal candidate and Labor candidate. I thought that I could be that person for the Labor Party and so I went around and spoke to people within the Labor Party in sort of 2015 and 2016,” he says.
“There wasn’t anybody else who was keen to be the member for Mount Lawley. I said to all the senior people in the party, ‘look, I’m not asking for your support. I don’t want your factional backing or anything like that. I’m letting you know that I’m putting my name forward. If your group or you come up with a better candidate, let me know, but if you don’t, I want you to keep me in mind’.”
In 2017, Millman won the seat of Mount Lawley. ‘I’m incredibly grateful to the people who voted for me the first time around. I’m incredibly grateful to all of the supporters, you know, volunteers who joined in on the campaign,” he says.
As a politician, serving the community is at the forefront of Millman’s mind. His belief in the democratic and parliamentary process allows Millman to ensure that legislation is up to date and serves the community.
Former Labor staffer Harrisan Burrows says: “Simon makes a great local Labor MP. He lives and breathes the bread and butter of Labor party values. He is focused locally on issues affecting people in Mount Lawley. Even though his seat is in an affluent area, he has found a way to focus on core Labor issues that are not bound by social-economic status. Mental health, childcare, early learning, health and access to local sport and services affect everyone, not just those on the low spectrum, meaning he will be able to remain relevant to his electorate as the demographic changes.”