Michelle began her working life as an organiser for the then Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union. She managed a job skills program for long-term unemployed people for three years and, in 1996, she began working as an electorate officer to Senator Kerry O’Brien.
In 1998, Michelle was elected as the Federal Member for Bass, increasing her majority in 2001 and serving until 2004. During this period Michelle served as Federal Labor’s Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and was also the national co convener of Emily’s List, a group dedicated to increasing the number of women in Parliament.
Michelle was elected as the State Labor Member for Bass on 18 March, 2006. When first elected, Michelle served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier.
From October 2006 until February 2008, Michelle served as Minister for Community Development, Minister assisting the Premier on Local Government and Minister responsible for Sport and Recreation. Michelle’s role as Minister for Community Development enabled her to work closely with her portfolio areas of Aboriginal Affairs, Multicultural Affairs, Seniors Bureau, Youth Affairs, Disability Bureau and Women Tas on issues that are close to her heart.
Michelle’s vision is for a Tasmania that embraces everybody, irrespective of their circumstances, background or culture. In February, 2008, she was appointed Minister for the Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts and Minister for Sport and Recreation. In September 2008, Michelle was also appointed Minister for Tourism in the new Bartlett Government.
Following the 2010 State election, Michelle was given the responsibility of the Health portfolio and after the 2014 State Election, Michelle was elected by her caucus colleagues to be Deputy Leader of the Opposition as well as Shadow Minister for Education, Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation as well as Labor Spokesperson for Workplace Relations. With a reshuffle of Shadow Ministry earlier this year, Michelle was appointed as Shadow Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence.
Michelle is the Australian chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians.
She lists former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner as having profound influences on her social and political values.
Michelle was born and educated in Launceston and is married with two teenage daughters.