Dawkins calls time on political career

Local legislative council member John Dawkins with his wife Sheila. Mr Dawkins announced he would retire from parliament at the 2022 state election last week. PHOTO: File

GAWLER-born legislative council member John Dawkins has set an end date on his political career, announcing he will retire at the next state election.

Mr Dawkins told fellow Liberal party members of his intention to retire during a meeting on Thursday, ahead of the party’s pre-selection ballots for the next election in 2022.

Speaking to The Bunyip, Mr Dawkins said he was “comfortable” with his decision to step away from politics.

“Some people are saying it’s sad to see you go, but I say ‘oh well, I’m not going anywhere for 26 months,” he said.

“Obviously it was a big decision to make, but I’m very comfortable with that.

“I always knew there would be a pre-selection in the third quarter of this term and I would have to make a judgement before those nominations closed.”

The son of Gawler River sheep breeder and long-serving Liberal legislative council member Boyd, Mr Dawkins has been a supporter of community clubs throughout the Gawler and Adelaide Plains region throughout his life.

Before parliament, he was a board member of the former Gawler and Districts Football Association and the first chair of the Gawler & Districts Softball Association, as well as member of Rotary and other service groups.

The 65-year-old was first elected to parliament in 1997 and was re-elected in 2006 and 2014.

He served as the Liberals opposition whip in the upper house between 2002 and 2018 and currently is Premier Steven Marshall’s advocate for suicide prevention and the chair of the Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention.

Across his 23-year parliamentary career, Mr Dawkins said his work in supporting regional communities and people was a highlight.

He added the passing of new surrogacy legislation last year he had championed since 2005 – as a private member and without the backing of his party – was another career high.

“Most of that work was done as a private member, but I was grateful the current government has supported me in making sure we have legislation which allows South Australians to have a surrogacy in their own state,” he said.

In his role as premier’s advocate for suicide prevention, Mr Dawkins has helped set up both the Adelaide Plains and Gawler suicide prevention networks.

He is also currently working with Light Regional Council to set up their own network.

Although he is looking forward to spending more time with his family upon retirement, Mr Dawkins wants to continue his advocacy work after 2022.

“I will look forward to spending more time with my wife Sheila and my family, but I won’t be coming to a dead stop,” he said.

“There will be causes and initiatives I will still support, but it will be in a different manner than being an elected member of parliament.

“There are always opportunities for someone who has been in parliament as long as I have to assist people. I look forward to that.”

Looking ahead to the 2022 election and beyond, Mr Dawkins backed Premier Steven Marshall and the direction of the party he has a life-long association with.

“I’m very proud to be a part of the team that Steven Marshall leads. We have a terrific group of members, quite a chunk of which are relatively new,” he said.

“There’s challenges obviously. There’s challenges with fires and coronavirus, but that’s part of being in parliament, the ability to make strong decisions which aren’t always popular.

“But if you’ve got the belief it’s the right thing to do, then that’s the way forward.”

Sam Bradbrook

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Sam Bradbrook joined The Bunyip in 2018 as a reporter and covers the Gawler, Playford and Adelaide Plains Council rounds. He graduated from the University of South Australia in the same year with a Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing and had previously interned at the Jakarta Post in Indonesia and The Courier in Mount Barker before moving to Gawler. In February of 2020, Sam was named the Young Journalist of the Year for 2019 by Country Press South Australia. He is interested in reporting on politics, healthcare, police and social issues and outside of work has a passion for sport and music.

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