Andrea Michaels: From humble beginnings to South Australia’s Cabinet table


“Last month I was standing on stage with Tina Arena opening the Cabaret festival. And I’m like, what’s going on here?

“It’s pretty remarkable quite honestly,” says Minister for Small and Family Business, Consumer and Business Affairs and the Arts Andrea Michaels, with her familiar bright smile, when asked about her multifaceted role in the Malinauskas Government.

“There’s lots of work to do. And it’s busy, but I’m really enjoying that. I’m lucky,” she says.

Since her appointment in March, the Member for Enfield has launched a number of campaigns to help boost local small and family businesses and to assist in the recovery of the arts, culture and entertainment sectors. 

“Our small and Family Businesses make a fantastic contribution to South Australia and I’m so glad I can bring some government focus to that,” she says, speaking excitedly about the newly launched ‘Support Small Business’ campaign. 

It is estimated that small businesses make up around 98% of all businesses in the state contributing $45 billion to the economy.

“Having been raised within a family business and as a formal owner of a law firm, I understand the challenges,” she says, “and I want to make sure our business owners will be looked after.”

“The arts were also hammered because of the pandemic. Being able to roll out some of our election commitments is great.”

Last week, Adelaide welcomed back the second iteration of the month-long event Illuminate Adelaide, in a bet to entice locals, interstate and international visitors to the city and last month the state government announced a $10 million boost for the live music sector. 

“It’s an exciting time to be in Adelaide,” Michaels says.

But is it an equally exciting time to be involved in politics? 

Michaels refers to her background and her family’s journey from war torn Cyprus in 1974, to South Australia and how it keeps inspiring her to make a difference in the community. 

“My parents and my brothers were Cypriot refugees. They left in 1974. I was born in London about six months after that. So, I think mum was pregnant on the way out. 

“When we came to South Australia in 1976, we literally lived in a shed at Blair Athol. My dad had an uncle here and he let us stay in his shed. And then as all good Greek families do, we invested in property and things changed for us,” she says. 

“At some point I felt very privileged and I knew I had a duty to help people who were like me, that’s why I became a lawyer. 

“Well, this is my chance to help on a much bigger scale. And that’s why I am in politics,” she explains.

Apart from her portfolios Michaels is also focused on changing the public perception of politicians and supporting female business owners.

“The more we get women to participate in our economy, the stronger our economy is. We need to start talking and tackling the barriers women entrepreneurs face,” she says.

We chat about the importance of diversity around the Cabinet table and the importance of the Government being representative of the communities it serves.

“Fortunately, there are a lot of non-Anglo Saxons within the Malinauskas Government but we can do more.”

“There’s a lot of progress being made in the indigenous space. We’re really starting to understand how to bring indigenous culture into what’s considered mainstream Australia. That’s really important. 

“To me, Australia is Indigenous and migrants working together. And I’d love to be able to do some work around that particularly in the arts space,” Michaels says. 

SA Governor with Minister Micahels and her family

I ask her about her immediate plans and the South Australian politician says she is preparing to go to Cyprus for the first time and take her two boys to the country where their grandparents come from. 

“I’m excited and nervous,” she confesses, “I want to take us up to the north where our village is.”

I can’t help but ask whether the war in Ukraine brough back bitter memories to her family.

“To some extent, yes. But also makes you realise how forgotten Cyprus is. 

“There’s lots of commentaries about how Ukraine is the first democratic European country that’s been invaded since World War II. But it’s not. How can we forget about Cyprus?” says Michaels.




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