Zak Kirkup

Zak Kirkup

35th Leader of the Opposition
in Western Australia
Assumed office
24 November 2020
Premier Mark McGowan
Deputy Libby Mettam
Preceded by Liza Harvey
Leader of the Liberal Party of Western Australia
Assumed office
24 November 2020
Deputy Libby Mettam
Preceded by Liza Harvey
Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly
for Dawesville
Assumed office
11 March 2017
Preceded by Kim Hames
Majority 0.69%
Personal details
Born (1987-02-23) 23 February 1987 (age 34)
Subiaco, Western Australia
Political party Liberal

Zak Richard Francis Kirkup (born 23 February 1987) is an Australian politician. He has been a Liberal member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly since the 2017 state election, representing Dawesville.

On 24 November 2020, Kirkup was elected Leader of the WA Liberals and became Leader of the Opposition.[1]

Early life and family

Kirkup was born in Perth to Penni Hulston and Rob Kirkup. His mother was an immigrant from New Zealand, while his father was Australian. Zak Kirkup's paternal grandfather was Aboriginal – a member of the Yamatji people of the Mid West. He has one half-sister, who was born when his mother was 17 and given up for adoption.[2][3]

He grew up in the eastern suburbs around Midland. Kirkup attended Woodlupine Primary School in Forrestfield and Governor Stirling Senior High School in Woodbridge. In February 2018, Kirkup married Michelle Gadellaa in a classic church wedding at St George's Cathedral in Perth.[4]


Kirkup worked as a research assistant to Matt Birney (the state leader of the opposition at the time). He later worked in the office of Senator Judith Adams, as a campaign officer at the 2007 federal election, as deputy state director of campaigns (under Ben Morton), and in the office of Premier Colin Barnett as an adviser on environmental issues.[2]

In 2012, Kirkup was named and subsequently cleared in a Public Sector Commission investigation into alleged breaches of the code of ethics that binds WA ministerial staff. The investigation was triggered by an incident at a Perth pub. Kirkup was drinking with a colleague from Barnett's office who falsely informed journalists that then opposition leader Mark McGowan was at the same pub. The colleague also distributed an image of McGowan's home. Kirkup denied any knowledge of his colleague's actions, which the Commission accepted.[5]

After the 2013 state election he switched to the private sector for a period, finding employment as a consultant with building company BGC.[6]

In April 2016, Kirkup won Liberal preselection for the state seat of Dawesville, replacing the retiring former deputy Liberal leader Kim Hames.[7] He won the seat by only 343 votes at the 2017 election, narrowly avoiding becoming a victim of the significant state-wide swing to the Labor Party. Kirkup is one of only thirteen Liberals in the parliament and one of only four in seats outside the metropolitan area.[8]

In 2020, Kirkup was criticised for his remarks on Clive Palmer's defamation suit against Premier Mark McGowan. State Government lawyers had lodged a counter claim to Palmer's action, a move intended to offset any damages awarded to Palmer. This prompted Kirkup to call McGowan "a princess" who needed to "harden up".[9]

Kirkup said he would run for Liberal Leader following Liza Harvey's resignation four months out from the 2021 Western Australian state election.

While Kalgoorlie Liberal MLA Kyran O'Donnell publicly opposed Kirkup's tilt, citing his narrow margin in his seat of Dawesville,[10] Kirkup dismissed these claims regarding his youth and parliamentary experience, stating that he was "up for the fight" in the upcoming election and he stated that all Liberal policies would be under review in the lead-up to the election. [11]

Premier Mark McGowan criticised Kirkup and the Liberal Party of WA, stating that they remained a "big risk to the state", and that the constant leadership changes meant the party was "blowing itself up and becoming a trainwreck." McGowan also took aim at Kirkup's perceived lack of experience, stating the Liberals were "inexperienced, risky and divided... We are three months from a state election and they don't have any policies. They have had four years to get policies ready and they don't have any."[11]

On 25 February, 16 days prior to the 2021 Western Australian state election, Kirkup admitted he did not expect the Liberal Party to win the election. The move for a leader of a major political party to concede an election before it occurred was unprecedented in Australian politics.[12]

Personal life

In December 2020, Kirkup revealed that he had been diagnosed with depression during the previous summer and had subsequently undergone treatment.[13] Kirkup said that if people are "worried about the fact that that might make me a worse or better leader, I can promise you I understand the emotions that I've experienced, and I've got help and I've got through it."[13]

Kirkup has been criticised for an alleged conflict of interest regarding his relationship with Jenna Clarke, the assistant editor of the state's only locally edited daily newspaper, The West Australian, owned by Seven West Media. Kirkup claimed that, "those issues have been dealt with from a conflict of interest perspective now... between Jenna and her bosses over at Seven West."[11][8]

See also


  1. ^ Bell, Frances. "Zak Kirkup elected new WA Liberal Party leader after Dean Nalder's last-minute withdrawal". ABC News. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b Zak Kirkup, the new Liberal MP who wants to be Premier – PerthNow.
  3. ^ "About". Zak Kirkup MP. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  4. ^ Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup marries fiance Michelle Gadellaa – Mandurah Mail.
  5. ^ Assessment Report – Alleged Breaches of the Code of Ethics by Ministerial Officers (PDF). Public Sector Commissioner. Perth. 27 March 2012.
  6. ^ Green, Antony (2017). "Dawesville". ABC Elections. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  7. ^ Liberals endorse Zak Kirkup to replace Kim Hames in Dawesville
  8. ^ a b Murray, Jordan (14 December 2020). Cowan, Sean (ed.). "Kirkup takes the 109-days test". Business News Western Australia. Business News Pty Ltd. pp. 10–12. ISSN 2202-459X.
  9. ^ Hondros, Nathan (23 September 2020). "Opposition says WA Premier 'a princess' for suing Clive Palmer over 'hurt and embarrassment'". WAtoday. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  10. ^ "WA Opposition Leader Liza Harvey announces decision to step aside, citing Liberal Party election strategy". 22 November 2020. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  11. ^ a b c "WA Liberals elect 33-year-old first-term MP to lead the party into March election". 24 November 2020. Retrieved 22 December 2020.
  12. ^ Shine, Rhiannon. "WA election upset as Liberal leader Zak Kirkup concedes he can't win on March 13". ABC News. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  13. ^ a b "'I've got help and I've got through it': WA Opposition Leader reveals he was diagnosed with depression". 11 December 2020. Retrieved 22 December 2020.
Western Australian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Kim Hames
Member for Dawesville
Party political offices
Preceded by
Liza Harvey
Leader of the Liberal Party in Western Australia

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