Companion of the Order of Australia (2017)

24 June 2010 — 27 June 2013 3 years, 4 days

Julia Gillard became Australia's 27th prime minister, and the first woman to hold this position, after a leadership ballot in the Labor Party in which she defeated Kevin Rudd.


29 November 1961
Barry, Wales


Tim Mathieson (2006-2021)


Australian Labor Party

Photo: Nic Walker and Louie Douvis/Fairfax

24 June 2010 — 27 June 2013 3 years, 4 days


By any measure, the bar was set very high for Julia Gillard. She came to the fore within a divided party, to then lead the first minority government since the Second World War. All the while she also needed to weigh up whether she could harness, or ignore, the unique circumstances associated with being Australia's first female prime minister. 

Prime Minister Julia Gillard at Mount St Josephs Girls College in Altona, 21 May 2013

Photo: Angela Wylie/Fairfax

Julia Gillard took an interest in politics in her youth, and began working towards a political career as a student. She practised law for eight years before resigning to work for the Victorian Labor Party. In 1996, Gillard ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in the federal election, but was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998 in the seat of Lalor. Within five years she had become the Manager of Opposition Business and, by 2006, Deputy Leader to Kevin Rudd.

She entered into government for the first time when the Labor Party won the election in 2007, becoming a senior minister, holding several portfolios, and Deputy Prime Minister. By 2010, the party was facing increasing pressure to abandon key policies and, in a surprise move, Julia Gillard defeated Kevin Rudd in a leadership spill to become Prime Minister.  

Neither of the major parties were able to secure an absolute majority but Labor was able to form a minority government after four of the six cross bench members supported Gillard. Her years as the nation's leader were difficult to manage and by 2013 it seemed impossible that the party would win the upcoming election. This led to a second leadership spill and, after the caucus voted 57-45 to replace Gillard with Rudd, she stepped down and retired from politics. 


360° VIEW


After the 2010 election, Gillard led the first minority government since the 1940s. On any vote, then, she would rely heavily on the six cross bench MPs. While Gillard acknowledged the difficulties of managing such a parliament, she set out to lead a reforming government and achieved the passage  of many pieces of legislation.

Her stance on climate change remained contentious, and at one point a group of protestors in the gallery were ejected by the Speaker for disrupting Question Time, but the government was able to get the Clean Energy Bill passed in 2011.

In October 2012, reacting to the Leader of the Opposition, Gillard gave her renowned ‘Misogyny Speech’ in the House of Representatives, sparking considerable debate about the treatment of women in politics and in the broader Australian community. The speech achieved international attention, but failed to turn around the domestic opinion polls, which were looking dire for the Labor Party. 

Julia Gillard walking down a hallway.

Photo: Fairfax

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