Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

The Hon. Julia Gillard

I rise tonight to pay tribute to the Hon. Julia Gillard. This week marks four years since Julia Gillard was sworn into office as Prime Minister, on 24 June 2010. So, yesterday, I paused to remember what that day meant to me, to my community and to this country. Julia Gillard represented Lalor in this place for 15 years. It is indeed an honour to follow her in representing our community. Back in 2010, Australia had its first female Prime Minister. We had done what so few countries had done. At the time I was proud, as an ALP member, as a resident of Lalor and as an Australian, that we had done this great thing.

I had the privilege as a principal to see an audience of young adults and adolescents listen to Julia speak at my then school, Galvin Park Secondary College, in Julia's, now my, electorate. It was an extraordinary experience for those young people, the teachers and invited community members. I watched that day the faces of the young people as she spoke about the power of education and the impact her school life had had on her life opportunities.

She also spoke of visiting a school in the US with Barack Obama on a then recent trip. Together they had made an unscheduled visit to a classroom. She spoke of watching the faces of young Afro-Americans as they looked into the face of their President and saw 'like'—saw themselves reflected there. As she spoke I watched the same thing. I watched young people, seeing someone from a background like theirs—their local member—speaking to them about her journey to the Prime Ministership and what she wanted to achieve as a Labor Prime Minister. I saw girls looking into the face of a woman who was their Prime Minister. I later spoke to students about that experience. They were lined up outside my office to share their excitement and their thoughts and to thank me for having arranged it. It was interesting. The themes were not about gender; they were about possibility and opportunity and the value of hard work. Students further committed or recommitted to their studies that day in my office. They had been inspired to believe in themselves and in the power of education.

Tomorrow also marks a year to the day since Julia ceased being our Prime Minister. And this too is worth some reflection. She gave a very dignified farewell speech that night. I particularly remember these words:

… I have prevailed to ensure that this country is made stronger and smarter and fairer …
And I remember her message to the caucus:

… don’t lack the guts, don’t lack the fortitude, don’t lack the resilience …
She was speaking about the Labor agenda and the then upcoming election, but I think it is fair to say that that message was taken on and that that is what our caucus, led by our leader, Bill Shorten, is now doing. I am proud to be part of a caucus that is continually on its feet here and out in our communities at home, speaking up for the people most affected by the decisions of this government. For my part, I was shocked when reading the budget and deeply concerned when I saw the analysis of the impact on women. So I got on my feet and highlighted that, and I did so again in the consideration in detail, inspired by Julia Gillard.

In terms of the shades of grey and the sophisticated way Julia suggested we need to look at gender issues in this country, Bill Shorten and the f ederal Labor Party are modelling and leading in this too. This week we have yet another Labor woman promoted to the shadow ministry. Amanda Rishworth joins Tanya Plibersek, Jenny Macklin, Penny Wong, Catherine King, Sharon Bird, Kate Ellis, Michelle Rowland, Julie Collins, Claire Moore and Jan McLucas. When I look across the chamber every day, I am reminded that Labor governs for all Australians. And, when I hear our members and senators on their feet defending the legacy of Labor governments across our history, defending the less privileged, defending the hardworking, defending the policies that strove to make Australia a more equitable country, I hear our Labor values of fairness, opportunity and compassion reflected in our caucus.

There is a disappointment, however, for me today—particularly for young adults, including those who listened to Julia at Galvin Park a few years ago— that our current government demonstrates its values of exclusion and division both by the membership of its ministry and, particularly, through its cruel and unfair budget.


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