Minister for Environment & Conservation, Minister for Women’s Affairs
There are few government ministers who can claim to truly live their portfolio. But, for Victoria’s Minister for Environment and Conservation and Women’s Affairs, Sherryl Garbutt, the years of joy she has derived from walking and camping in the state’s parks and reserves has ensured a strong commitment to preserving our natural assets.
On her home territory though, as if being a working mother wasn’t enough, Sherryl became heavily involved in community issues ranging from doing more than her fair share on school and pre-school committees to recognising the plight of women caught in domestic violence. The latter led to the setting up of emergency housing services and a strong ongoing commitment to the concept of neighbourhood houses. It is this ability to recognise, appreciate, understand and listen to issues “from the ground up” that has seen her increase her electoral popularity at each election and to tackle a vast and very diverse portfolio area.
Sherryl Garbutt has spent most of her life in the northern suburbs. Raised in Pascoe Vale, her formative educational years were spent at Pascoe Vale Primary School and Oak Park High School. Academic achievements saw her go on to Melbourne University and later post graduate studies at La Trobe University. Sherryl taught at secondary schools in the northern suburbs between 1970 and 1976. She has two children – a son and a daughter now in their early 20’s both brought up in the northern suburbs.
Politics, the environment and a strong sense of community touched her life from an early stage in her teaching career and she quickly became very involved in local concerns and environmental issues. In 1982, Sherryl translated her community awareness into action by going to work for the Member for Greensborough, Pauline Toner, as an electorate officer. It was in this position that she became a full-time working mother and became involved in the women’s issues surrounding the balancing of motherhood, career, home and extended family.
Ms Toner, who died in 1988, became Victoria’s first woman cabinet minister when she took up the Community Affairs portfolio in the Cain government. Sherryl Garbutt won the subsequent by-election for Pauline Toner’s seat. In the 1990 redistribution, the seat was abolished and in the 1992 election, Sherryl won the seat of Bundoora. That same year she had her first shadow portfolio in community services, adding women’s affairs a year later.
In 1996, she took up the shadow minister responsibility for Environment, Conservation and Land Management as well as looking after the water resources area. In both the 1996 and 1999 state elections, she increased the Labor majority in her electorate.
Her enduring personal interests remain bushwalking, camping and travel, but exploring antique shops also feature high on her personal interest list.