Jenny Mikakos, Labor member for Victoria’s Northern Metropolitan Region, has added a new chapter to the history books of Australian politics, after being sworn in as Minister for Families and Children and Minister for Youth Affairs in Premier Daniel Andrews’ cabinet.
Ms Mikakos, who in opposition was Shadow Minister for Community Services, Children, and Seniors and Ageing, is the first female minister of Greek heritage to have served in either state or federal parliaments.
At Labor’s first caucus meeting since the election, incoming Premier Andrews announced his cabinet would include nine women and 13 men. The portfolios assigned to each were revealed on Thursday when the new government was sworn in by Victorian governor Alex Chernov.
After the ceremony, Ms Mikakos told Neos Kosmos: “It is a great honour to have been appointed to serve in Premier Andrews’ Cabinet, in portfolios that are integral to our families, children and youth.
“I am humbled to have achieved a new milestone for Australia’s Greek community as the first woman Minister of Greek descent. I hope this will encourage other women to strive for leadership roles.”
Minister Mikakos’ portfolios see her take responsibility child protection and youth justice issues, as well as early childhood education.
“Research shows that if young children access a quality early childhood education, they get the best start to life,” said Ms Mikakos..
“Our youth also need to be supported to access education, training and employment opportunities, which is why the new Labor government will rescue our TAFE system, build new technical schools and invest in our schools.
“As the daughter of a working class migrant family, I have seen the transformative role that education can bring and I want to ensure all children have the opportunity to access a quality education.”
Bill Papastergiadis, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne paid tribute to Minister Mikakos saying that that she had been “at the forefront on dealing with community matters.”
“We wholeheartedly support her ascension to the ministry,” said Mr Papastergiadis, who added that he encouraged Daniel Andrews to appoint more MPs of Greek background to ministerial duties “given the Greek community’s relevance and vibrancy, and proportional representation within the population in Victoria”
Former Victorian Liberal Minister Nicholas Kotsiras said that he “sincerely congratulated Ms Mikakos on her appointment and I wish her all the best in her new role”.
Greece’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Haris Dafaranos said he was delighted to hear the news of the former shadow minister’s’ elevation as part of the Andrews Government’s front bench.
“I salute her as a personality and it is with a great sense of pride that I acknowledge her place in history as the first female Australian minister of Greek heritage.
“I have no doubt she will lead by example and do her absolute best for all Victorians and of course the Greek Australian community.”