SA Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman still calls KI home

The State’s new Deputy Premier and Attorney General, Vickie Chapman was born and raised at Western River and is proud of her Kangaroo Island heritage.

She returned to her family property over Easter to unwind after the recent election, where she was returned to her suburban Adelaide seat of Bragg.

While she admits not spending much time on the Island since leaving to further her career as a solicitor and then politics, she still calls the Island home and hopes to retire here.

“When I return, I still feel like I’m coming home,” Ms Chapman said. “It will always be home to me and I hope to return permanently when my career is finished.”

Her father Ted is an Island legend, having carved out the family farm back in the 1950 starting at the tender age of 16, eventually taking over official ownership from his parents at the age of 21.

He expanded the original 1000 acres to 2500 acres, working as fencing contractor and fuel agent for the growing Soldier Settler community. He is in the Parndana shearing hall of fame.

He too had a career in politics serving as the local member from 1973 to 1989, although she freely admits he never encouraged her to go into politics and was surprised when she did.

She attended Parndana Area School through Year 11 having to do Year 12 on Adelaide. She matriculated in 1974 and then attended Adelaide University to complete a Law degree, being admitted to the Bar in 1979.

She practiced criminal law and then branched into farming partnership and family law, having her own practice in Adelaide, employing all four of her sisters. Her career in politics began in 1992 when she became Liberal Party state president.

She was then convinced to seek preselection for the seat of Bragg and entered the South Australian Parliament in 2002.

“I had an interest in politics but never expected to get into Parliament,” she said. “My husband had died and my children had grown up so I decided to part of the team that cleared out a lot of the dead wood.”

Ms Chapman said she was excited to finally be in Government after years in opposition. State Treasurer Rob Lucas was the only member of the old team with her now. “Everyone else is new.”

“We’ve gone from being in the three most significant states in the country to lagging behind in the economic stakes and I believe socially as well,” she said.

“Too many of our kids have left the State and I believe we need to reinvigorate South Australia and make it attractive to come back to.

“We’ve always been an agrarian state. We are good at food production and we should be investing in that and making a future for our kids and I believe we can do it.”

Kangaroo Island was in a prime position to be at the centre of that agricultural re-invigoration, she said.

Another big challenge was to keep the 150,000 visitors that came to the Island every year, on the Island a little bit longer, spending more time and money here.

She still sponsors the Kingscote and Parndana shows and is a patron of the KI Pioneer Association, and her granddaughters will be eighth generation Islanders.

“Kangaroo Island is in my heart and is a very beautiful part of our State,” she said. “I’m proud of our forebears efforts to keep it protected and believe we need to keep protecting it and promoting it.”

A big priority for her as the State’s Attorney General was to work on solutions for the problem of the drug ice and the terrible impact it was having in rural areas, including her beloved Kangaroo Island.

“The most important social reform is to deal with young people with an ice addiction,” she said. “Young people who may have come from rural areas like Kangaroo Island just can’t survive on the streets where they have no future.”

She said parents of ice-affected young people came begging for her to do something for their children and asking for them to be taken away from their circle of friends, where temptation to use again was too strong.

“What we need is more long-term treatment centres where these kids can go to get away and get the treatment they so badly need,” Ms Chapman said. 

But overall she had great faith in the Island’s young generations, who were in an excellent position to take advantage of all that the Island had to offer.

“We have a great group of young people on the Island and I am very, very confident that our young people are going to flourish and will be able to make a living and prosper in places like Kangaroo Island.”

Sadly, she is not sure how much longer she can hang onto her family property and despite the help of her cousin Russell, the best option was probably to sell the property at Gum Valley Farm.

She was keen to hang onto the old shearing shed property at Western River Cove that her brother loved so much, and that her children and grandchildren also loved to come and visit on holidays.