“Dolphins never hurt you”: The professional lives of five MPs before politics


Allegra Spender (centre) speaks to volunteers at Double Bay Public School on federal election day, in the seat of Wentworth in Sydney. Source: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

Saturday’s federal election result will see a swathe of new talent ushered into Parliament, bringing with them oodles of experience not just in civic life but in the private sector too.

From fashion to energy and even dolphin training, here’s what sort of expertise a handful of incoming MPs are bringing to shake up the Parliament of Australia.

Allegra Spender

Spender beat incumbent Liberal Dave Sharma in the blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth on a grassroots platform of climate change, political integrity, and gender equality, but Spender herself comes from a fairly high profile family.

Her father, John Spender QC, was a Liberal MP for 10 years while her mother was Australian fashion icon Carla Zampatti, the founder of the eponymous brand. Spender worked for her mother’s fashion label as managing director for eight and a half years, determining strategy across the business and reporting to the advisory board.

Then in 2017, Spender diversified into solar energy. She co-founded Sydney Renewable Power Company with Andy Cavanagh-Down and sought $1.43 million from the public to fund a 520 kilowatt solar array on the roof of the new Darling Harbour International Convention Centre.

Dai Le

The independent who wrestled Fowler from Labor, thrashing Kristina Keneally in the process, founded the Diverse Australian Women’s Network (DAWN) — a social enterprise that aims to empower women from diverse backgrounds.

DAWN runs workshops, and consults and collaborates with organisations to improve inclusion and diversity in leadership, but during the pandemic, DAWN mostly functioned as a media outlet, telling stories via the DAWNcast podcast.

Together with co-founder Linh Podetti, Le has also launched a new content creation service, called “Repurpose Your Purpose”, to help creators amplify their voices and create engaging video content.

Sophie Scamps

The independent member for Mackellar actually qualified for the 1992 Olympics as a middle-distance runner, but it’s her longtime work on climate action that sets her aside.

The teal politician founded the Our Blue Dot environmental movement, which campaigns for waste reduction and carbon neutrality.

“As an independent in Parliament I will fight to safeguard our environment, get real action on climate change and help small business and the local economy thrive,” she said.

“Tackling climate change is not only an environmental issue, but it’s also an economic opportunity, and the right approach to tackling climate change could not only help protect our way of life, but it could also create well-paid jobs across the country, including here in Mackellar.”

Sam Lim

Lim, whose real name is Bon Cheng Lim, spectacularly toppled one of former prime minister Scott Morrison’s closest confidants — Ben Morton — in Western Australia.

But Lim doesn’t exactly come from a political background. Prior to his migration to Australia in 2002, Lim worked as a dolphin trainer at a safari park until it folded.

“Dolphins never hurt you. If you feel hurt you jump into the swimming pool and the dolphin will come to you and try to comfort you,” he told ABC.

“That was my best part of my career.”

Lim also worked in Western Australia’s police force, winning the highest accolade — the officer of the year award — for his work with multicultural communities during the pandemic. He also speaks 10 languages.

Kylea Tink

The member for North Sydney has an illustrious career in leadership before taking up the post. She’s a former managing director for Edelman Australia, a global communications firm, and the former CEO of the McGrath Foundation.

Tink helped established the Pink Test, a cricketing fundraiser that raises awareness and money for the foundation, including nabbing big grants from the government.

She also worked as CEO of Camp Quality. During her tenure the charity launched Kids Impacted by a Carers Cancer (KICC) Camps for children of parents diagnosed with cancer.



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