Julia Gillard’s appearance at #BBWF2015 was indeed one of the biggest highlights of the festival this year, where she was greeted with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation from the crowd.
Her interviewer, historian and author Clare Wright, was openly thrilled to chair the session with the former Prime Minister, and described Gillard as one of her “bucket list” idols. Gillard’s memoir, My Story, was the best-selling political book of 2014 and her reason for appearing at the festival.
The session commenced with Wright noting Gillard’s many accolades, including her current role as the Chair of Global Partnership for Education, and her recent honorary doctorate for “achievements as a women permitted to education and to social inclusion”.
Gillard’s commitment to education equality is manifested throughout her political career, and during the session she relayed that it was this that gave her drive through difficult times as prime minister. She now focuses on this passion more intensely in her post-political life.
One of Gillard’s big motivations for writing her memoir was to encourage woman to enter into politics despite the problems she encountered in her career. She spoke of the processes she undertook to finish the book so quickly due to her awareness of the anxiety felt by young women around political aspirations.
Gillard’s recount of the now famous ‘misogyny speech‘ was received with laughter, applause and the triumphant sense of nostalgia some get when recalling that momentous day. She told the audience that the speech was unintended, and that she had in fact armed herself with Abbott’s “top ten sexist quotes” in order to prepare for Question Time.
Her staff compiled the list “very quickly”.
“I thought it would be ten questions to me about ‘Oh, aren’t I a hypocrite on sexism for supporting the speaker,'” Gillard reflected.
Wright recalled her own memory of the speech.
“I know many mothers, myself included, who sat down with their daughters and watched that speech and cried together.”
“It was a very bonding moment,” she told Gillard.
Unaware of the impact her speech would have, Gillard told the audience that her mind naturally shifted to other important tasks as she returned to the bench.
The fact that Gillard is a woman was always going to make her time as prime minister unique, particularly as the pioneer in this typically, historically male role.
Gillard told the audience that she never believed that more women in parliament would result in a “nicer or more gentle” place. It was her goal to stand in parliament, fight hard for what she wanted, and dominate it.
Gillard remains intolerant of the sexism for which was often the aim of during her political career.
Gillard’s relief from the scrutiny of politics seemed to embody her, and wove between the words she spoke on the festival stage. It was as if the audience was privy to read between the lines of the Gillard story we think we know, and the story that is only hers to tell.
Without a doubt, Gillard will leave her fingerprint on the world in history. Whether it will be about her limited time as the first female PM (where she also topped the leaderboard on legislative output – little known fact), or the many ventures she will endeavour in the future is the only question.
Wright’s final proposition, and indeed an excellent, insightful question, had Gillard envision her legacy 150 years into the future.
“Um, I hadn’t really thought about the 150 year time horizon. Now I’m feeling dreadfully short term, I feel chastised,” Gillard said.
She recalled a conversation with Paul Keating on the day she packed up the belongings in her office with ironic frailty; life is a but a series of endings.
Kaitlin Liemandt is a Bachelor of Media student at Southern Cross University and has been involved with #BBWF2015 in all things social media.