Julia Gillard is Australia's first female Deputy Prime Minister. How she has lasted, and conducted herself so well, in the toughest workplace in Australia, says a lot about her character. I wanted to find out more about this interesting woman.
Julia Gillard was born in Barry, Wales on 29th September 1961 and migrated to Australia with her family in 1966 and settled in Adelaide. In 1986 she graduated from Melbourne University
with arts and law degrees and the following year, joined the law firm Slater and Gordon working in the area of industrial law. In 1990 she was admitted as one of their first female partners.
Her financial future would have been assured and I wonderered why she would turn her attention to politics and after reading about her background, I think I can understand why.
Julia's father, one of seven children, came from a small coal mining village in Wales. He was quite good at school and was actually offered a scholarship but because of the family's financial situation, he had to leave school and get a job.
Julia got bronchial pneumonia as a child and her mum and dad were told by their doctor that he they were to go to a warmer climate, it would benefit the child. When they went back to the doctor and told him they were migrating to Australia, he was surprised and said he was thinking more of Cornwall, not the other side of the world. Julia's sister Alison was 7 and Julia was 4 when they left Wales for Australia.
From her father she learnt about hard work. He worked as a psychiatric nurse and would always take extra shifts. He was required to do four months of nights a year but he would frequently do six months because the money was better on nights. He took a second job at a small private hospital, determined to give his family whatever they needed. He also taught her about caring. After extremely long shifts, he would bathe a disabled woman who lived down the street.
Because her father was away from home working long hours, it took a toll on her mother. Being a migrant, she didn't have extended family around her and she must have missed them terribly. When the girls were small, their mother worked in a Salvation Army residential aged care home. She worked shifts there every day, 1.30 to 6.30 preparing the evening meal for 60 to 70 women. It was physically demanding work, big pots, big pans, lifting heavy things and clearing up afterwards. Having the responsibility of getting the meal out on time must have been tough, she didn't have professional trainaing, she wasn't a chef and it was hard work trying to balance work and looking after her two girls.
There was never any question of Julia going to private school so she had a state education. She was very good at academic work and because her mother made sure that she and her sister could read and write before they left school, she had a flying start.
Julia didn't come from a family where you were expected to go to University, that was big thinking, but she made a decision to go to Uni if she got the grades. Then it became possible because Gough Whitlam abolished Uni fees, so it wasn't a financial strain on the family, she didn't need to leave school and get a job. That's when she started mulling over the thought of becoming a lawyer and she remembers putting it down on her preference sheet.
Growing up, her father would always listen to Question Time on the radio and interject enthusiastically during the program, so Julia became very aware of politics. Her mum and dad were pro-Labor and that's why she joined the Labor Party. But why did she enter politics, it certainly wasn't for the money, she could earn much more as a partner in the legal firm she worked for. I like to think she did it for the same reason that many politicians enter politics, not for fame and power, but a genuine desire to help keep Australia the greatest place to live on earth.
On the 3rd December 2007 Julia was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister of the Labor Party. She is Australia's first female and first foreign-born Deputy and is the highest ranked female politician in Australian history. As testament to her capabilities, she is also Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion.