Julia Gillard’s rise to become Prime Minister ‘historic’ for women say Joan Kirner, Raelene Boyle and Emily’s List

By Aaron Langmaid
The Age
June 24, 2010
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VICTORIA’S first female premier yesterday declared Julia Gillard’s ascent to PM as a historic moment for women in Australia.

Joan Kirner, who served as State Premier from 1990-1992, said it was also fitting recognition of the work done to get more females into politics.

Ms Kirner joined a chorus of support from prominent women around Australia.

“It’s so inspirational that somebody with a working class background can do it,” Ms Kirner said.

“It’s inspirational, it’s historic.

“She is competent, she’s strong and is a good communicator and balanced in the way she will make decisions.

“She works hard at finding out what community thinks and at providing what the community needs and people in the west are very excited about that.

“I look forward to supporting her. It is a great honour for me to see after we worked so hard to get more women into Labor, more women into parliament. I wasn’t sure I would live to see the day.”

But Ms Kirner said her respect for Kevin Rudd remained. “I think winning the election was an amazing thing in itself and gave the community hope again. When people calm down they will see he was a good leader but for some

reason he didn’t take the community with him. You are only a leader if you take the group with you.”

She credited Rudd with his swift rise to power, defeating work choices and particularly his history making step of making a formal apology to the Aboriginals.

Meanwhile Olympic medallist Raelene Boyle threw her support behind the new prime minister.

“What a great honour for her,” Boyle said. “I just hope she will lead the country in the right direction.

“I think its appropriate that the right person is in place whether that’s a man or a woman.”

The women’s lobby believe her elevation will inspire a new generation of female politicians.

Labor women’s lobby group Emily’s List co-convenor Hutch Hussein said it was high time a woman ruled the nation and Ms Gillard showed women could break through the glass ceiling.

“This is an historic occasion for not only our organisation but the Australian public, in particular women and young girls who can now see a woman in the highest office of the nation and can feel like they can do anything,” she said.

“Politics is such a male-dominated field and to have a woman reach the highest echelons is an absolute tribute to Julia and the confidence that she has inspired in the caucus but also testament to where Australia is today.”

Ms Hussein said parents had spoken of their young daughters’ soaring ambitions on the back of Ms Gillard’s rise through the political ranks.

But she lamented that it had taken so long for a woman to reach the top job.

“We should have had this 10 years ago in the same way that New Zealand did, almost.

“The timing’s always got to be right in politics and people have got to come to that decision … with the right person and I think that’s what they’ve shown today.

“They’ve elected Julia on her merit in that case – she’s talented, she’s passionate and she’s progressive.”

Ms Hussein said Ms Gillard was a formidable opponent for Tony Abbott, who could not be trusted to protect the work-life balance of Australian families.

Emily’s List is a Labor women’s advocacy group focused on facilitating more women parliamentarians on a platform of childcare, equal pay and pro-choice issues.

The group has 3000 members and was formed in 1996 with the help of Ms Gillard, who was involved in writing its constitution.

Melbourne University academic Lauren Rosewarne also said it was a fantastic day for women.

Feminist politics expert Dr Rosewarne said it was it pity it was still such a big deal.

“It would be wonderful if we didn’t need to draw attention to the fact that Julia Gillard is a woman,” she said today.

“The fact that we have to talk about her being the first female PM reminds us how far we have left to come.”

Olympic medallist Raelene Boyle threw her support behind the new Prime Minister.

“What a great honour for her,” Boyle said. “I just hope she will lead the country in the right direction.

“I think it’s appropriate that the right person is in place whether that’s a man or a woman.”

World Vision chief Tim Costello also said today it was fantastic to see “a woman ascend to the throne”.