Premier Mark McGowan
Mark McGowan said he knew several people in the room from his time in the Navy – Rick Dawson, who had been a naval police officer; Kevin McDonnell, who was a warrant officer and medic; John Rana, a former warrant officer, submariner coxswain, and a very frightening person.  There were probably others in the room he added.
STATE Premier and local MP Mark McGowan revealed a self-deprecating sense of humor when he addressed  71 Rotarians and guests at a recently combined clubs meeting organised by the Rotary Club of Palm Beach.
He recalled meeting British wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough when he was a more junior member of the Western Australian Government cabinet.
The natural historian came to Carnac Island to film blind tiger snakes, blinded by seagulls which picked out the snakes’ eyes while protecting their eggs. The snakes survived, using their sense of smell, Mr. McGowan said.
 He was then Environment Minister and offered to take Attenborough sightseeing around Perth after the few hours of filming was completed.
Coincidentally, Al Gore – the 45th president of the United States turned environmentalist – was in town, promoting his film An Inconvenient Truth. Mr. McGowan was scheduled to go to a reception for Mr. Gore in the early evening and invited  Attenborough to go with him. Sir David diffidently asked: “Are you sure he would want to meet me?”  Reassured, he accompanied the WA Environment Minister to the reception, and Mr. McGowan was nearly knocked down by a starstruck  Mr. Gore rushing to meet the legendary British broadcaster.
Mark McGowan joined the Navy from Brisbane where he was a law student. He signed up and went to HMAS Morton which was at Bulimba on the Brisbane River. The young sub-lieutenant was taken aside by a chief coxswain who said, with many emphatic “Sirs”,  that he would treat this officer with appropriate respect. But if this officer stuffed up he would let him know in no uncertain terms. 
C. “He really scared me,” the captain of our state confessed.
Mr. McGowan was born in 1967 in Newcastle, New South Wales. His wool classer father Dennis and primary school teacher mother Mary had left Broken Hill to bring up their children on the coast. Dennis McGowan took a job on the wharves.
His father was a keen squash player and, after seven or eight years in Broken Hill, he bought a squash center in Casino, in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales.  A squash center was up for sale in Byron Bay about the same time and Mr. McGowan said he wished his father had bought that one!
The casino is much gentle nowadays but when his family moved there, it was a working man’s town. The meatworks employed many, there was a sawmill, butter factory, and farms.  At first, the young family lived in a caravan but then moved into a rented flat.  Mark's mother returned to primary school teaching.  “I tried hard at school," Mr. McGowan said.  His primary school teacher and mother put a huge effort into his brother and him at night, bringing extra books home and coaching them. That was his big advantage in life, he said.
His father was very bright but left school at 14.  He learned wool classing at Tech but always told his boys not to do what he did but “stay at school and use your brain".
He always told his children “do you want to do, I will support you". The young Mark did what he was told. “I wanted to impress Mum and Dad, particularly Dad," he said. His father also “wanted me to be the best squash player in the world”.  But at the New South Wales junior titles, when he was winning, his opponent let go of his racquet. It hit the side of McGowan's head fracturing his skull and knocking him out.  He continued playing through concussion but wasn't able to play sport for three months after.
The family moved to Coffs Harbour when his father bought another squash center. In upper high school, his strengths were the arts subjects, especially English, history, and geography.  “I still read history every day," he said.
 In high school, he knew he wanted to do law and he cried when his university acceptance came through. But when he got to the University Of Queensland, he found he didn't much like it. The law course was hard and boring and most of his fellow students were out of his social class, backed by money, tutors, and owned their own cars.  “I had a bike but was determined not to fail," he said. Then came articles of clerkship, and the others all hated it, he said.  But this time he became fascinated by military history, thought he might become a pilot and then go back to the law.  He failed the air force test on the first day, his eyesight wasn't good enough.  But someone told him he could join the military as a legal officer and gave him the forms. He found “the army sends you to godforsaken places … macho, body odour, and bad knees”, he said.
The air force uniforms were awful but the navy had a decent uniform and offered “great postings” so he put in the forms for the Navy and was accepted.  It was a great deal for him, getting paid to study.
 He had stints at HMAS Creswell, at Jervis Bay, Sydney, and Canberra had a good time and became very familiar with the joys of King's Cross.  Friends from the university were having horrible lives and earning about half what he was doing their articles.
 Then he was posted to WA. He had never been there before and was seriously envious of a friend posted to Cairns and quartered were next to a backpacker hostel with hot and cold running Swedes.
 He drove across the Nullarbor and found he loved it —  a great life and loads of fun, very hedonistic. But he had hard taskmasters at Stirling and found he “had to do things”. The inevitable happened, he was to be posted away from Western Australia.  He had met Sarah (now his wife and the mother of three children) I did not want to lose that relationship. So separation from the military became inevitable.
 He was still in the Navy when he was elected to the Rockingham council and then became deputy mayor.  He remembered Darren Simmons (son of past district governor John Simmons and now Koorda Shire CEO) running citizenship ceremonies for the local council.
 He knew he wanted to do something meaningful with his life so joined the Australian Labor Party.    His first party meeting was in the room where he was addressing Rotarians that night.  The local long-term MP told him this would be his last term and suggested he think about politics as a career.
The idea appealed.  He knew he wanted to do good things, wanted to make society and Australian people’s lives better.  “It has been an exciting 25 years,” he said. There had been “lots of ups and downs but you learn as you go. Things that would've laid me out at the start I don't notice now. You get tougher as time goes by.”
His military life had been exciting and interesting. Parliamentary life might look meaningful from the outside but inside "not so much”, but the actors keep striving.
There was a lot of luck in being successful in politics, he said. "You have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to make your own luck but some things are outside your control.
 “you have to have a good work ethic, resilience, and be prepared to listen to others," he said. “These are all life lessons. “Don’t  think you know everything.”
 When he was growing up he couldn't ever have imagined where life has taken him.   Having grown up in New South Wales and Queensland then transplanted to WA, you know I could imagine living nowhere else.