The Gillard Legacy

| June 27, 2013

After much speculation and divide Kevin Rudd has taken over the Labor leadership and has been sworn in as Prime Minister. Claire Braund, Executive Director of Women on Boards, looks at the eventful removal of Australia’s first female Prime Minister on 26 June 2013.

There is no doubt that the past three years have been a tough time in politics and Julia Gillard has borne much criticism for her style, her speeches, her inevitable gaffs and the Government’s policies. She has been asked highly personal and totally inappropriate questions in public forums and by the media, been ridiculed and insulted at public rallies (Ditch the Witch etc) and on Coalition fundraising menus and, when she finally snapped in her famous ‘misogyny speech’ last year was accused of playing the gender card and reducing the august tones of Parliament to the gutter.

Fair cop some might say, but the uneasy question for many women, regardless of whether they supported Gillard’s Government and policies, is whether Gillard was held to higher account than a male Prime Minister would have been in the same circumstance? Was she given the same opportunities to lead and succeed as Kevin Rudd and John Howard before her?

This morning on ABC 702 in Sydney Kerry Chikarovski, the first woman elected to lead a major political party (Liberal) in NSW, made the point that Julia Gillard is right in not re-standing in her seat of Lalor as she will give the next local member and others in the party the ‘clean air’ she did not receive. It was an interesting point taken in the context of Gillard’s three-year tenure as Prime Minister in a minority government where her every action and utterance was seen through the lens of a policy success or failure – depending on your viewpoint – and in a Labor Party mired by internal divisions and mistrust.

It did not help that forces seemed to conspire against her to make her public appearances seem awkward and contrived. Yet many who met her commented on her warm engaging style and capacity to negotiate and deliver legislative outcomes in a relatively hostile environment. Remember, it was Gillard, not Tony Abbott, who managed to convince the conservative former National Party member, Tony Windsor, and the other independents to support the ALP to form a minority government in 2010. She then held together the fragile coalition that also involved the Greens, Family First, Bob Katter, Nick Xenophon and the left and right factions of the ALP and somehow managed to make it a workable government.

Unfortunately, like Kim Beasley before her, Julia Gillard saved the best until last. Her speech conceding the leadership of the Australian Labour Party gave us a glimpse of the Prime Minister many wished she had been able to become. Her words were gracious, thoughtful and even-handed, but at the same time tenacious and uncompromising in underlining what she saw as her achievements in office. She raised gender equality in a way she might have done earlier in her Prime Ministership, using her unique position of having broken a centuries old glass ceiling to raise the level of public discourse on gender-related issues.

We will all judge Julia Gillard through the lens of our own experiences and understanding, but she was and always will be, celebrated as Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Women on Boards’ congratulates and commends her for the contribution she has made to public life, for being a role model to thousands of young women across the country and for making it that bit easier for the next woman to lead. We wish her well in her future endeavours.


This blog was first published on the Women on Boards website and is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.



  1. Ronald Forbes

    June 27, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Julia Gillard’s legacy
    I just want to say I am deeply saddened by the loss we have suffered in the deposing of our lady Prime Minister. If PR spin doesn’t twist the facts, Julia will be regarded as one of the greatest of our Prime Ministers for what she achieved. She wasn’t always right – but who is? We’ll look a long way to find anyone as good as her – man or woman. And we will have years to remember how much she gave us – and wish we had more of it. May the next outstanding woman be given the respect that the mediocre men take for granted.

  2. ozwebsite4u

    July 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Glad she is gone
    Now that Gillard has been removed l do feel a touch sorry for her, but l firmly believe she needed to go for the good of the Labor Party and also for the good of the country. I read comments about how Gilard achieved so much, lets not forget she did the Carbon Tax “with out” the approval of the electorate and basically did a deal with the greens to form the minority Government. Gillard lied and fooled Andrew Wilke in regards to Pokie Machine reforms to once again obtain Andrew Wilke’s support to form the minority government. Gillard and Swan ran deficit after deficit and even when they were on auto pilot with the words “Surplus 2013/14” they maintained the position a surplus was coming a surplus was not negotiable….. only to once again produce another deficit. Boats…. they keep on coming and Gillard had no answer to stopping those boats. Gonski school reforms, well it is supposed to be a “national” school reform and she did set a “dead line” of June 30 for all states/territories to sign up by…… Well once again that did not happen. NDIS has support of both sides of politics and we all know it will be the LNP who end up paying for the NDIS scheme as the Labor Party don’t have the ability of finding the money to fund it, besides they wont be there to find the funds when it finally kicks in.

    Gillard was a Prime Minister who relied heavily on her lawyer back ground…. good at arguing a point, but often fundamentally wrong. Made to many judgement errors and was quick to blame the opposition for everything that went wrong. She may have been taken out in a not so honorable manner….. but lets not forget how she got the job in the first place. You know what they say, “good for the goose, it’s good for the gander”