Sharon O'Brien's impressive life has been very much driven by a deep love for family and the Gympie region she calls home.
Sharon O'Brien's impressive life has been very much driven by a deep love for family and the Gympie region she calls home. LEEROY TODD

The woman behind the man: Get to know Sharon O'Brien

SHARON O'Brien's busy life has taken her all over the country, but her heart remains firmly with the region she has called home from day one.

With strong bonds unbroken over an illustrious and mostly behind-the-scenes political career, which still often sees her travelling to Canberra alongside husband and Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew, Mrs O'Brien's sense of appreciation for Gympie has only grown with time.

Crediting a strong upbringing for her own family values, Mrs O'Brien said the recent arrival of her first grandchild had been special in more ways than one.

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"I'm a fourth generation Gympie person in my family and my granddaughter is the sixth, so we go back to the gold mining days,” she said.

"We're living at the moment right next door from where I grew up, at Chatsworth.

"Mum and Dad have been there forever, my dad went to school there.

"(When) we lost my Dad 15 years ago ... we were living in town so we bought a house next to Mum, and we've been out there since.

"I just love it, it's really nice. When you do go away a bit, you can come back and really appreciate what we have here. When you're a kid you don't just look at it and say it's nice, but as you get older and when you have children your opinions and outlooks change.

"When you lose someone, it changes the way you think about things.”

Sharon O'Brien.
Sharon O'Brien comes from a six-generation Gympie family. LEEROY TODD

Keith Pitt, Deputy PM Michael McCormack, Shelley Strachan and Llew O'Brien celebrate $800 million funding for Section D.
Sharon is especially proud of husband and Federal MP Llew O'Brien (far right) when he campaigns for what he is passionate about, including making our roads safer. Here he is celebrating the confirmation of Federal Government funding for Section D of the Bruce Highway upgrades. Scott Kovacevic

Mrs O'Brien, 48, said Llew, 45, had been an important support for her when coping with the loss of her father, as he had been through a similar experience just six months before they met nearly 30 years ago.

She said the story of how they met still brought a smile to her face as they prepare to celebrate 25 years of marriage.

"We were in the Freemasons Pub, as everyone was back then, and he was still quite new around town,” she recalled.

"My friend bet me $10 that I wouldn't go up and ask him to dance, so naturally I did, and we've been together ever since. I still say I never got that $10, but it's pretty special to be able to say we met the same day we got together.”

Following a decorated career, which included 10 years as an electorate officer and a role as campaign manager for Gympie MP Tony Perrett, Mrs O'Brien said she was quite happy to give it away once Llew was elected to focus on family.

St Patrick's Day Irish Craic - Gina Ostwald, Sharon and Yve O'Brien
HAPPY FAMILY: Sharon (centre) and daughter Yve O'Brien (right- both pictured with Gina Ostwald). Sharon is currently supporting Yve through her final school year. LEEROY TODD

A doting mother to two sons Rees, 21, and William, 19, and daughter Yve, 17, her short-term focus has not gone much further than getting her youngest through her final year of school.

"Family time is precious, so we all work hard to make time for each other whenever we can,” she said.

And when she does get those sparing moments to herself?

"I like to exercise as much as possible, it's important to be fit and healthy because it has such a big influence on your mental and emotional health.

"I go to the gym ... but I love to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air, and find new bush walks.”