Being a politician means being a public figure and often the public only ever see that public person. Often it is forgotten that politicians are human too so learning about the person behind the politics shows some insight into their lives.
2013 was a busy and exciting year for Jim as he became the Member for Rankin in the House of Representatives and married journalist and writer who worked as a staffer to Penny Wong and Julia Gillard, Laura Anderson.
In many ways, a lot has changed for Jim since his time as a “not so well behaved” school student at St Peter’s Rochedale, but in many ways, a lot hasn’t.
The born-and-bred local has opened up to Living in Logan about life, politics, his love for the city that raised him and how a Logan upbringing helped prepare the 45-year-old father-of-three, Leo, Annabel, and Jack, to take on one of the toughest jobs in the country.
Jim is the youngest of three children born to Graham and Carol Chalmers. His father worked as a courier and his mother worked as a nurse. They divorced when he was 14, by which time his older sisters had left home.
“I live about a kilometre away from the family home I grew up in,” he said.
“I live in the same neighbourhood, and I run on the same tracks I galloped on in my teens and early twenties, shop in the same supermarket.
“My motivation for everything I’ve done in politics has been the same – to try and make a difference to communities like ours.
“I love this place. It’s where I live, where I work and where Laura and I chose to raise our family.”
Jim said as a teenager, politics was far from his mind. His first job was at Springwood McDonalds, but that was short-lived.
“I only lasted eight weeks or so until I worked out I could earn more refereeing basketball, and didn’t have to take directions from schoolmates who were my ‘crew chiefs’,” he said.
“But jobs like those were really important – they teach you how to deal with people, the value of a dollar – things that are incredibly important no matter where life leads you”.
It wasn’t until he met an inspiring modern history teacher, Norbert Gruellich, that the now Member for Rankin started to consider a future in the service of Australians.
“It took me a while to work out what I wanted to do, to find something that combined all my interests” he said.
“I loved the idea of helping people and I loved my community, but I wanted a bigger stage too and I didn’t know where that would all lead.
“Mr Gruellich made me realise that someone like me could make a contribution to our community and our country – that someone like me could and should make a difference.
“He convinced me I had something to offer. I wouldn’t be here without the faith he showed in me.”
From that point on, Jim said his path became a little clearer – going on to study public policy at Griffith University before attaining a PhD in political science and international relations from the Australian National University.
“I considered being a legal aid lawyer, a journalist, or a diplomat before I became focused on economic policy.
“I owe Griffith so much and that’s why I’ve tried to stay as involved as possible in the life of the uni.
“My entire reason for being from then until now really hasn’t changed – that’s to create more opportunities for more people in more parts of our community.
“I didn’t know it back then then but what’s clear to me now is that the kind of upbringing and education I had here in Logan City was really good preparation for the kind of work I do now.
“Our community is absolutely packed full of potential, and I want to play a part in unlocking that.
“That’s really my job – here in Logan and right across the country – to do what I can to create opportunities for people who need them and ease pressure on people who are under the pump.
“Growing up, it never sat well with me that there were people out there – in communities like ours and others like them – who weren’t afforded the same opportunities that I was.
“It’s something that I set out to change and it still motivates me today.”
Jim says his proudest moments were made in Logan.
“I’m proud that Laura and I have been able to raise our family in my hometown,” he said.
“I’m proud of what our government has delivered in a little over 12 months for communities like this one.”
Away from politics, Jim loves to run and can often be found pounding the pavement in a Broncos jersey through Daisy Hill Conservation Park.
On a weekend you’ll often find him at the basketball with his kids, enjoying breakfast at a local café with the family or spending time at the Global Food Markets at Woodridge.
“We live in the best part of the best country in the world. This place is in my heart, and we love nothing better than exploring our community and enjoying everything it has to offer.”