A note for our non-Australian readers: Julia Gillard was the first female Prime Minister of Australia. She is also atheist and in a de-facto relationship. She has since been replaced by a hyper-conservative lizard in a man suit who doesn’t believe in global warming or feminism. She is known overseas for giving that speech. (below)

I confess, that even as a left-leaning Australia, I under appreciated Julia Gillard. I felt for her, I was angry at the lack of respect shown to her by the Liberal Party, the media and her own Labor Party, and I was disgusted at the seedy sexist underbelly of many Australians that was exposed in their haste to dismiss our first female Prime Minister with gendered slurs and treatment that would not be extended to any male in her position.
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Julia Gillard – Photo by Chris May

Delving into her book, I would not have been surprised to read a seething recount of the wrongs done against her from the Liberal Party, the media and her own colleagues alike. A gendered description of her situation would be saying that she could have “played the victim card”, and while I certainly would not have blamed her for taking that approach, nothing could be further from the truth.

Eloquently deconstructing the inner workings of Rudd’s government, deftly addressing the media’s portrayal of her own leadership and respectfully countering some of what the Liberal Party had to say, her tone was not on the offensive or the defensive – it retained a resolute self assurance and measured analysis of what happened, warts and all. Her self-awareness of her own mistakes, errors in judgement and policy is refreshing.

In a chapter entitled “The Curious Question of Gender”, Julia explores what it means to become Australia’s first female Prime Minister, what it meant for her time in leadership, how her legacy could change the experience of the next woman in her position, and the keen sting of the need to be better, more informed and more prepared to be viewed as equal to her male counterparts. At no time is her tone self-pitying or complaining. She is direct in her tone and her analysis of both malignant and benign sexism in politics and society at large, and details her experiences with the beauty obsessed media as a woman without a passionate interest in fashion with insight and grace.

Her recount of her experience as a politician, a lawyer, a woman and a first-generation Australian is underpinned by her best feature; her resilience in the face of hardship, doubt and criticism from all sides, and the final chapter of the first part embraces that with humility and vision, making for a perfect segue into part two.

Only the first third of the book is devoted to her personal experience of her time in government, which may disappoint the readers looking for salacious gossip. The rest of the book is a thoroughly inspiring tour of her thoughts, positions and direct actions on a range of issues from education and technology to indigenous issues and climate change. With a measured balance between her experiences as PM and politics, we see a breadth and depth of character from Julia that I did not expect from a political memoir.

We see her experiences and her greater vision, from her very own statement of intent made when she first took office to an account of what she accomplished to those ends while negotiating around a minority government. She accomplishes this feat with a unique voice, direct, factual and with the dry humour and laconic wit that feels authentic and personal. Like Morgan Freeman, when you read this book, you can’t help but do it in her voice, and it’s this candid sharing that makes My Story shine.


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Alicia Thompson is an illustrator and designer living in Newcastle (also known as “not Sydney”), Australia. She is also the web and print monkey behind Quaint Magazine’s beautiful facade.

You can find her online at http://aliciathompson.com.au or hear her whinge in bit sized pieces on twitter at @ahleeseeah.

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