From Coffs Harbour to the leadership of Western Australia

Premier-elect West Australian Labor leader Mark McGowan his wife Sarah and their children acknowledge supporters at the party's election night event in Perth
Premier-elect West Australian Labor leader Mark McGowan his wife Sarah and their children acknowledge supporters at the party's election night event in Perth AAP Image/Dan Peled

WITH a huge election swing confirming he would be sworn in as Western Australia's 30th Premier Mark McGowan took to Twitter to say 'the work starts now.'

The Rockingham Labor MP said today he was surprised by the enormity of the swing against Colin Barnett's Liberal Government, as he gained perspective on the size of the job ahead.

"Today we showed we are a state of decency and intelligence... Today West Australians showed the way for the rest of the country," Mr McGowan proudly announced to Western Australian media.  

The 49-year-old, who attended high school in Coffs Harbour, said he hoped to have his cabinet sworn-in by the end of the week, wanting to get down to work as soon as possible. 

Reflecting on his humble beginnings as a local student, Mr McGowan recently recalled his teenage years here on the Coffs Coast and a serious accident that played a large part in building his strength of character as a young man. 

"I went to the opposite of an exclusive school, put it that way," Mr McGowan told the ABC prior to Saturday's polls.

"I was quite a straight kid … I tried hard at school because I wanted to impress my parents."

His father Dennis and mother Mary continue to live in Coffs Harbour and have towed their caravan over to WA to be a part of their son's election success. 

The champagne corks have been popping proudly in the Rockingham caravan park where they are staying. 

The journey Mary and Dennis have taken across the Nullabor, mirrors the trip a young and ambitious Mark McGowan took 26-years ago as a navy lawyer in a Toyota Corolla when he was posted to HMAS Stirling on Garden Island. 

Reflecting on his teenage years in Coffs Harbour, McGowan recalled how he grew up on the courts of the local squash centre that his father owned while his mother worked as a primary school teacher in local schools. 

"(My parents) they are not wealthy, they do not have any airs and graces," he said. 

"I don't go back there very often, I get back maybe once a year to visit."

At age 15, McGowan suffered a skull fracture playing in the state junior squash titles.

"A guy let go of his racket and it hit me in the side of the head, nearly killed me … it knocked me out," he told the ABC. 

"I was concussed but I eventually got up and kept playing, I shouldn't have. I was having dizzy spells … I wasn't able to play sport for three months."

Born in Newcastle, McGowan attended the University of Queensland, where he resided at Emmanuel College.

He subsequently worked as a legal officer for the Royal Australian Navy, serving at naval base HMAS Stirling, south of Perth.

Remaining in Western Australia, McGowan served as a councillor at the City of Rockingham from 1994 until his election to the Legislative Assembly at the 1996 state election, representing the seat of Rockingham.

Inspired by former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke's ability to "transcend class" McGowan began his political rise through Parliament.

After the 2005 election, he was elevated to the ministry, although he had served as a Parliamentary Secretary since the 2001 election.

McGowan became opposition leader and leader of the Labor Party following Eric Ripper's resignation in January 2012, and led the party during its defeat at the 2013 election. 

He will be sworn in as Premier after five-and-a-half years as Opposition Leader and more than two decades in Parliament. 

Topics:  coffs harbour high school election mark mcgowan premier wa western australia

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