First Armenian-Australian to Lead a State, Gladys Berejiklian Ends Reign as New South Wales Premier

By Armenia Media | Friday, 01 October 2021

SYDNEY: Armenian-Australian Gladys Berejiklian has today stepped down as the Premier of New South Wales after four-and-a-half years of in the position, more recently navigating Australia's largest state of through some of its hardest times including bushfires, droughts, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Berejiklian started her career in politics in 2003, when she won the seat of Willoughby when her then-boss, former Opposition Leader Peter Collins – who had represented the Willoughby electorate since 1981 – decided to retire.

Berejiklian joined the front bench in 2005 as Shadow Minister for Mental Health and was appointed to the Opposition portfolio of Transport in 2006. Following the 2007 State Election, she was given the shadow portfolio of Citizenship by Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell.

Following her party's election victory in 2011, Premier O’Farrell named Berejiklian as New South Wales Transport Minister, which featured her overseeing major developments and successes such as the Sydney Light Rail extension and the introduction of the Opal Card, as well the commencement of the North West Rail Link.

In 2014, with Mike Baird taking over as Premier, Berejiklian was elected as his Deputy before being appointed as Treasurer of NSW and Minister for Industrial Relations. During her time as Premier, Berejiklian oversaw a return to budget surplus for the first time in 20 years.

After the resignation of Baird on 2017, Berejiklian was voted by her Party as Leader, taking over as New South Wales Premier.

Berejiklian led New South Wales with distinction through tumultuous times, including the bushfires, floods, as well as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

On 1st October 2021, Berejiklian called it a day as Premier of New South Wales to ensure the Government would not be clouded by a pending investigation into her conduct – despite claiming complete innocence ahead of the upcoming enquiry.

Berejiklian said: "Resigning at this time is against every instinct in my being and something which I do no want to do. I love my job and serving the community."

Berejiklian has been involved in many community Armenian community organisations since her youth, from her scouting and basketball days under the Homenetmen Australia banner, to her days as an outspoken up-and-comer in the Armenian Youth Federation of Australia, all the way to her learning and practicing the political ropes as a Board member of the Armenian National Committee of Australia.

Before the community had an Armenian day school, Berejiklian attended Hamazkaine's Saturday School during her student years and is fluent in Armenian, the only language she spoke until the age of five. She continues to be ever-present in the Sydney Armenian community.

Since her ascension to public office, Berejiklian has been instrumental in representing Armenian community concerns in Parliament and educating her fellow parliamentarians on issues of importance, including Federal Australian recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the rights to self-determination of Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh.

The State of NSW has twice recognised the Armenian Genocide and has a Khatchkar in the Parliament House's Peace Garden in memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. NSW has also recognised the rights to self-determination for the Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh in both chambers, the most recent motion moved by Dr. Hugh McDermott MP during Berejiklian's time as Premier in 2020.

Berejiklian was instrumental in helping ANC-AU organise the visit to Armenia and Artsakh by a delegation of politicians in 2013. This visit to the Republic of Artsakh earned her a place on Azerbaijan's persona-non-grata blacklist, along with her fellow delegation members, something she recently referred to as "a badge of honour".

The peak public affairs body of the Armenian-Australian community, the Armenian National Committee of Australia posted the following message on Facebook: "We would just like to congratulate the first Armenian-Australian to lead a State Government in Australia, Gladys Berejiklian, who today ended a magnificent period of 4.5 years as Premier of New South Wales today, under some of the most extraordinarily challenging times for our state and the wider world. We are proud of you! Always!"

Armenia Media similarly congratulates Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who announced she will also resign as the Member for Willoughby.