The theme of ‘firsts’ is a great way to kick off this new regular feature in the Pelican Politics section. The idea behind this new regular is to highlight political figures throughout history that most exemplify the qualities and ideals behind the issue’s theme. As far as ‘firsts’ goes, it was a hard choice. There are an innumerable amount of examples of great men and women who could be written about, but I finally settled on one incredible woman.
Look call me and old tragic but I think that Julia Gillard gets a lot of flak for no reason. I distinctly remember Mid Year Rotto 2010 and waking up on the final day hungover, tired, and having to quickly pack up and seeing Julia Gillard on the news. I was off the Australian mainland again in Europe when three years and three days later she was ousted by Rudd. It seemed as if every time I traveled, a government fell. I’ve been travelling frantically since the 2013 election but lightning has not struck again.
On the 24th of June 2010, Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female Prime Minister. I’m not going to get into the murky waters of what was right or wrong in her challenge of Rudd’s leadership, but if you look at the intricacies of the running of the government toward mid-2010, the proof is in the pudding. Like it or not, Gillard acted boldly and swiftly, as she did throughout her time as Prime Minister. She was never popular, and opinion polls over her three years of leadership hit some pretty disappointing lows, however she never let this slow her down or damage her ambition and vision for Australia. Indeed, despite the hung parliament and a vicious opposition, Julia Gillard passed 0.495 acts of legislation during 1098 days in office, making her the most productive Prime Minister in Australian history.
Most importantly, Gillard was not afraid to call things as they were. As she did with Rudd’s failing leadership in 2010, she called out Abbott on he and his party’s attitude toward her leadership in August 2012. After relentless (and as we now know baseless) accusations of misconduct on Gillard’s part, she took a stand. She made history and international headlines when she branded Abbott as a misogynist. Her tenure as Prime Minister of Australia raised questions as to whether Australia as a nation was mature enough to accept a female leader. One fact is without question though: Gillard was a trailblazer and a woman truly devoted to the wellbeing of her nation.
Words by Brad Griffin