Australia's Stateswoman

A Conversation With Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard

  • Country: Australia
  • Title: Former Prime Minister
  • Education: University of Melbourne, Unley High School, University of Adelaide
  • Known For: Being the first female prime minister of Australia

As a 21-year-old law student at the University of Melbourne, Julia Gillard was elected president of Australia’s student union; by age 29, she had made partner at her law firm in Melbourne, Australia; not long after, she won a seat on Parliament for the Labor Party. When Labor leader Kevin Rudd was elected prime minister in 2007, putting an end to 11 years of center-right rule, Gillard was named to several positions in the new government, including minister for education. But in 2010, with Rudd’s ratings having slipped, she successfully challenged him for leader, becoming Australia’s first female prime minister. Sitting atop a shaky minority government, Gillard managed to get a carbon-pricing scheme enacted and a health-care funding bill passed. But in June 2013, Rudd challenged and unseated her as leader, and later that year, Labor itself lost its hold on the government to the Liberal Party. Gillard now chairs the Global Partnership for Education, a fund that has allocated $3.9 billion for schooling in developing countries over the past decade. She spoke with Foreign Affairs deputy managing editor Stuart Reid in New York in September. 

Do you miss politics?

It's mixed. Coming out of being prime minister, it's the end of the best thing you'll ever do and the end of the hardest thing you'll ever do, all wrapped up into one. You certainly miss the best of it and, for me, the best of it was having the opportunity to make change in my nation. But you don't miss some of the day-to-day stresses of it. But having the opportunity to chair the Global Partnership for Education is very precious to me, because the things that really drove me as prime minister were about education and opportunity, and I'd like to pursue that still. 

Donors have lots of choices when it comes to where to put their scarce resources -- public health, infrastructure, the environment, and so on. Why should they focus on education?

Because it's the single biggest change agent for

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