By Ingrid Jacobson
FORMER Yanchep resident Sabine Winton’s qualifications – head girl, school council president, Wanneroo councillor and a teacher with 25 years’ experience including overseeing gifted and talented students at a regional level – are extensive.
Right now Cr Winton has taken long service leave from her day job as primary extension and challenge (PEAC) coordinator for the north metropolitan education region while she tries to win the seat of Wanneroo in the March State Election.
The mother of three daughters admits that from the moment she was preselected by the Labor Party in March last year, she hit the ground running.
“This is a full time commitment and I do have a tendency to be an all or nothing person,” she said.
“I’m well aware that Wanneroo is a critical seat and I’m putting in my all so I will never die wondering.”
Constituents can vouch for her enthusiasm – if Cr Winton is not door knocking, she’s out on the streets advocating for change and campaigning for the bellwether seat held for the last eight years by Liberal, Paul Miles.
Advocating, she admits, is one of her strongest talents and she realised this early after winning a citizenship award in Year 7 at Yanchep Primary School.
The mother of three believes it was that award that inspired her urge to serve, and now hopes to make a difference on the State political stage.
However, far from being a career politician, Cr Winton admits her life has taken this path because of her convictions.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago what my aims were, I wasn’t working towards this.
“Blame my neighbour who knocked on my door in 2008 when there was a threat of a limestone quarry being put next to our local lake.
“At first I said, ‘Well we do live in a mining state’, but once I looked into it, realised the lake did need to be protected for locals and tourists to enjoy.”
For even before taking up the reins as a City of Wanneroo councillor in 2013, Cr Winton had been a prominent member of the Lake Nowergup-Carabooda Valley Community Group formed to protect the pristine area from development.
Ironically, if Mark McGowan becomes premier next month, she will this time be in the driving seat.
Recently Labor committed $100,000 if elected to be spent on the lake, the deepest in the metropolitan area, to provide environmentally-appropriate access and recreational facilities.
And this week, the party backed another issue close to home for its candidate, pledging $5 million to be spent on a new sports centre and much-needed theatre at Wanneroo Secondary College, Cr Winton’s old school.
Among the second cohort of students to attend Wanneroo Senior High School as it was then known, she is of course rapt and recalls what an innovative, state-of-the-art school it was back then.
“Wanneroo has never had a theatre, despite it being a specialist performing arts school.
“The college also specialises in sport and Labor’s commitment would allow it to become a sporting hub for our vibrant community, for primary and secondary students as well as the wider Wanneroo area.
“I am also very happy that Labor has pledged to put education assistants back into classrooms – as a teacher, I can’t tell you enough how vital that is.”
Next to advocating, innovation is another subject which drives Sabine Winton.
And one gets the feeling that this dynamic woman, who achieved the elite Level 3 status as a teacher early in her career, is rather gifted and talented herself when it comes to seeing the big picture and finding a sensible, creative way to make it better.
Having always wanted to be a teacher, she took the hard way, doing a degree at Murdoch University rather than a teaching diploma at a college closer to home, despite having to travel from Yanchep to Murdoch University, the only university back then to offer the opportunity.
Teaching in communities in the Kimberley for three years, including Fitzroy Crossing, then Cocos Island for two years where she met husband Paul, gave her an insight into an alternative side of Australia that many never see.
Being a migrant provided her with another.
Cr Winton attributes her passion for education to her parents – Hans and Sigrid Fen – who emigrated from Germany in the 70s because they felt the educational opportunities would be better in Australia for their three children.
“We first went to Sydney and stayed at a hostel in Wollongong where the government put up migrants.
“Then we all bundled in a car, crossed the Nullabor Plain and arrived in Perth in 1975.
“My parents bought one of the Bondy houses and my mum still lives there today.
“Looking back, I am just in awe of my parents and the courage it would have taken to go to another country without any family there and they did it so we could have a better life.”
Her father soon found a job as a gardener at Yanchep District High School where he worked until retirement for 30 years, while her mother spent 20 years there working as the school cleaner.
‘”My parents started from humble beginnings but were able to achieve success like buying their own house and raising a family.
“This was through a combination of hard work and living in a country where there was strong protection in place for workers’ rights and jobs.”
Given her eclectic background, it’s not surprising that Cr Winton chose Labor when she finally decided to put her name in the ring for Wanneroo, where she sees the critical issues as being jobs and transport.
“The unemployment rate is over 8 per cent in Wanneroo which is way over the average and up to 80 per cent of people leave the area every day to go to work.
“Mark McGowan’s message of needing to diversify the economy is true – it’s not just a mantra – specific things need to be done to prioritise local business.
“A big one here is Meridian Park which many people know as the Neerabup Industrial Park.”
Cr Winton said that Mr McGowan announced early in the campaign that Labor would transform Meridian Park in Neerabup into a bustling industrial and technological hub which would offer quality education choices and also generate local jobs and startups.
“I’m also proud that Labor would reinstate TAFE – you can’t have kids out there doing $9000 courses for jobs that don’t exist.
‘When you look at it, Labor has a real plan, a vision that it’s been working on for a long time in opposition.
“It has specific strategies to create local jobs and provide better educational opportunities.
“Mark McGowan has not played it safe but you either accept you want to sell the family farm in privatising assets such as Western Power or you believe it belongs in public hands.
“Labor is looking to use creating thinking and innovation to improve the lives of West Australians and I’m proud to be part of that vision.”