A Night With Julia

by Patricia Byrnes

It has been ten years since Julia Gillard held the landmark position of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, yet her celebrity was as present as ever as she spoke to a decked-out audience in Sydney’s Town Hall on Thursday night. As part of this year’s Sydney Writers Festival, Julia joined author Indira Naidoo in the conversation surrounding “Not Now, Not Ever,” her newest book detailing the patriarchal culture surrounding gender and politics within Australia, and of course, her infamous ‘misogyny speech’ she delivered in parliament eleven years ago.

Producing a book that Julia described as “deliberately feminist and ironically in bright pink,” her status as a feminist icon has resurged in recent times, thanks to a renewed interest in her speech shared through TikTok. The audience in the hall reflected this greatly - for every classy, middle-aged woman who sat down, there were just as many bright-eyed, fashion-forward young women and men right beside them. Despite this, Julia claimed that she has ironically never sat down to watch any clips of her speech, “not once, not ever” (get it?).

Australian politicians are well-known for their casual demeanours, and Julia was no different, conversing and joking with ease whilst poking fun at her time in parliament. When asked about her former opposition and eventual Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Julia crafted the idea that the two would both “retire to some special politician retirement village together” - the solution for world peace?

Despite her confident stature, Julia admitted to being quite an introvert, priding herself as being even more relatable to the audience watching her. Stating that she “didn’t get into politics to strip tease,” Julia credits her ambition towards wanting to make a considerable difference, the speech she credits as something that came naturally as a passionate response to the overtly masculine energy of the parliament room. To her, the celebrity and glamour isn’t important, instead cherishing the way her presence forced those in parliament, and in Australia, to rethink their conceptions about women in power. And gathering by the outpouring support and constant applause from the crowd in attendance, I think she has begun to achieve her goal.

Julia wants to tackle misogyny in Australia, a mission she believes we all can get behind. Closer to home for normal folk, she exclaimed worry for the rise of the misogynistic influencer - the likes of Tate and his clones - and claims we should be spending less time on social media, and more time having actual conversations. While this may sound very boomer-esque, I do think being less chronically online could only do everyone some good, with Julia making an incredible point - you can’t ring up a newspaper and publish an article threatening to hurt someone, yet these sentiments are plastered all over social media. Killing them with (intelligent) kindness seems to be her successful method, encouraging change through education and passionate conversation, rather than hate.

The conversation came to a close with heavy encouragement from Julia to get involved! Her lingering message urged certain conservative parties to consider “representing themselves as parties who are ready to include women in equal numbers,” providing greater opportunities for those in disadvantaged positions. Huh, who would’ve thought it was that easy? Though, she does credit the next female PM as needing just as much great timing and luck. Who knows, if you put yourself out there with Julia’s confidence and education, you might just be next.

Patricia Byrnes is a current second-year student studying a Bachelor of Media (Comms. And Journalism)/Arts. She is an enthusiast of all things pop culture, specifically Bill Hader movies, former members of One Direction and attends every single concert she physically can. You could most likely find her constructing her own album tier lists in her bedroom, for her own enjoyment.

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