When I met Australia’s first female PM

Once upon a time we had a female Prime Minister

It’s been ten years since Australia had our first female Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard AC and she remains a role model for women in politics.

When it comes to dreaming about getting into political offices, every young woman needs to know it is possible because it has been done before.  

In the years since June 24, 2010, every little girl -and woman – who has dreamt of entering politics – can look back and know that from 2010-2013, our country was led by a woman.

However, we haven’t had another women PM since then. Why not?

Australia’s international ranking for the percentage of women in politics has slipped to 55th in the world, down from 26th, when Ms Gillard was first elected in 1998 (source: Inter-Parliamentary Union) Currently, we still have fewer than one-third of women in the Lower House in Australia’s Federal Parliament.

This week I spoke to the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) Australia about what needs to be done to help more women Get Elected so we can reach Gender Equality in Australian Politics.

You can be what you see

Visible leadership of women in power, at the highest level, means all women aspiring to public office can now see what is possible. I am grateful to Julia Gillard for being ‘the first’ in this area of female political leadership.

I first met Julia Gillard in 2009, when she was Deputy PM. I was the local Mayor for Baw Baw Shire Council. It was the days following the Black Saturday bushfire disaster that devastated my community. Julia Gillard came to visit the fire-affected areas, speaking first-hand with survivors and local officials to learn about the impact of the fire and understand where support was needed. She listened to stories of survivors and heard about the impact this unprecedented natural disaster had on peoples lives and the challenges for local government services. As a result, support and additional funding came in the months of recovery ahead. This was welcomed by those trying to rebuild their lives.

I was delighted to meet Julia Gillard again in February this year, at Victoria’s Government House. She spoke at a gathering of Pathways to Politics alumni and chatted with dozens of admiring women afterwards. I was thrilled to gift her a copy of my book Get Elected, written to support more women to run for public office.  This meeting has been a highlight of 2020.

Ten years on, let us celebrate this milestone in Women’s leadership. I hope that we won’t have to wait too long to see the next female Prime Minister.