What Julia Gillard wants Australia’s next female prime minister to know.

It's been nine years since Julia Gillard was ousted from office, where she held the title of Australia's first and only female prime minister. 

It's been 10 years and two days since she gave a speech that turned her from a politician into a feminist icon, whose quotes have since been tattooed on arms and recreated on TikTok. 

Earning the name the 'misogyny speech,' Julia's words in parliament on October 9, 2012, came from a place of deep frustration. Of dealing with gendered and sexist politics for more than 15 years.

Watch Julia Gillard's full misogyny speech here. Post continues after video.

Video via Australian parliament

But she's confident the second woman to hold that role will have a vastly different experience. 

"I think there's been more and more of a waking up that so much of how politics is played and reported is truly gendered, and that means that today I think it would be impossible for someone in the parliament to use the kind of terminology that was used about me without huge political consequences," she told Mamamia's daily news podcast The Quicky.

"It would be impossible for media to just report in the same way, and to not see the gender bits... I think they very much see the gendered bits now and try and unpack them."


But back in 2012, it was a different story. 

Julia's hair and clothes were up for constant debate, and her marital status and choice to not have children were ripped apart daily by commentators who questioned how she could possibly have opinions about things like childcare when she hadn't raised her own - all questions that are never directed at men.

Radio shock jocks would ask her to her face if her then partner Tim Mathieson was gay because "he's a hairdresser....you can confirm he's not?" And in September 2012, Alan Jones told his listeners her father, who had passed away weeks earlier, died of shame.

For her entire tenure, she was on the receiving end of gendered commentary and insults from both the media and the opposition. As she told The Quicky, "I think there are some special challenges that come when you're the first."

"There hasn't been a woman in the role, the media haven't had to react to a woman in the role, the parliament hasn't had to react to a woman in the role, the community hasn't had to.... and so you're kind of all learning together, and you're learning by doing. I do think because we've all had that learning experience, it will be different - it will be better [for the next woman]."

Listen to Julia Gillard on The Quicky. Post continues.

At the time of the now infamous speech, her government was facing backlash for endorsing the speaker of the Lower House Peter Slipper, whose text messages to his former media advisor James Ashby included derogatory comments about women's genitalia.


She knew then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would come for her over those revelations, but she hadn't anticipated her reaction at the moment to his words. 

"I say to the Leader of the Opposition I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. And the government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever," she began.

"The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror. That's what he needs," she continued. 

Reflecting on that day, Julia is constantly amazed by how far and wide it reached. 

"I have women come up to me all the time, and many of them tell me that they've watched the speech dozens and dozens of times - even hundreds of times. It's become a sort of backdrop to their life when they need a bit of energy to fire up themselves."

The speech has actually led to great things in Julia's life. They're all things she probably would have done anyway, but her words on that day gave her another level of notoriety and visibility. 

After stepping down as prime minister, she went on to chair Beyond Blue and Wellcome (a health and medical research fund headquartered in London), and founded the Global Institute for Women's Leadership. She's just released a book Not now, Not ever to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of her speech. 


"People identify with the speech and so they're interested in what I'm doing now on gender and that takes them to the work of the Global Institute, which is fantastic," she said.

All those years ago, she watched on as the Canberra press gallery analysed her speech within the narrow political confines of that day. It took the broader media and worldwide response for them to actually see its significance. 

"I think that flowed back into the Canberra press gallery and made them think, 'did we call this right or did we call this wrong?' And then I think more broadly, in the years since it's not just about the misogyny speech, it's about MeToo, it's about the women's marches, it's about the increased voice of women in politics. I think there's been more and more of a waking up that so much of how politics is played and reported, is truly gendered."

But gender, misogyny and sexism aside, Julia says the next female prime minister should be focusing on the positives. 

"When I look back on my career in politics, sure, I remember some of the gendered insults, but more than anything else I remember how it felt to create things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme, to start the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, [and] to improve the Australian education system," she told The Quicky. 

"If you get to do those big things that put your values into action and change your nation -  there's no better feeling than that, and that's what politics can give you." 

Feature image: AAP Image/Lukas Coch/Mamamia.

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