Monday, November 17, 2014

Julia in Newcastle

I was lucky enough to be in the audience for Julia Gillard at City Hall at the beginning of the month. Lucky in that our friend A had scored our tickets when they sold out in something amazing like 15 mins! And lucky because she was our first female Prime Minister and a rather remarkable woman. 

I got to City Hall and was first in line, which gave us excellent seats when the doors opened. The enthusiastic audience ranged in ages but over half were female.
Rosemarie Milsom introduced the former PM to thunderous applause, it was thrilling to be in the audience. And from that moment for about an hour, Julia Gillard shone. Enhanced greatly by the extraordinary Rosemarie, Julia answered questions and told stories with grace, humour, and intelligence. This should not be surprising, but I guess I was surprised at how graceful, warm, funny, and charismatic she was. Much more than expected.

I cannot remember everything she spoke about, and I remember being so entranced I barely tweeted anything. I could have sat and listened to her all night.
She spoke at length about the period before she took over from Kevin and of course the night Kevin took over from her. It's hard to know what is spin and what is not with politicians, but I guess there are some things we'll never know. But I could tell she felt conflicted over the man and the course of action taken from all aspects.
She spoke about her family and the impact of her being PM had on them, especially given the treatment she got.

And I guess this is what stayed with me most about her talk, was her mistreatment, the thing that bothered me the most about when she was in power. The double standards, the misogyny, the bullshit. She said it mostly rolled off her and she tried to take no notice of it, but there were times it was hard to ignore. When she was in large briefings with big business and the only woman for example, it appears - as we know - feminism still has a long way to go.
She spoke about her famous misogyny speech and how she had no idea the impact of it and how powerful it was. A few close to her at the time mumbled to her they wouldn't want to be in Abbott's shoes at that moment. And it wasn't until she returned to her office that she found messages and realised how well it had been taken. She said she can be in another country that might only know about kangaroos and koalas in terms of Australia, but they would also know about her speech, and that was pleasing.
My favourite line was "criticism only hurts from people you respect." This was in direct response to the extreme sexism she was treated to during her time in office.

She also took time to acknowledge Joanne McCarthy, who was in the audience, and spoke about her harrowing decision to go ahead with the Royal Commission, as she wanted those affected to go through the least amount of pain.
She spoke about her passion of education, meeting President Obama, her family, and her work now she is out of office. All were presented with openness, and great humour. She was funny!
The evening ended with questions, and one was an offer to come and be Lord Mayor, no doubt she would be pleased Nuatali Nelmes taking on that role.

At the end of the day, she was not a perfect PM, but are there any perfect politicians? But she got a huge amount of policy through in a trying government and has come out the other end as a respectable and decent human. I think the history books will be kind to her and deservingly so.

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