After Gillard (Your Say): At Julia Gillard & Anne Summers in Melbourne

Last night, the Wheeler Centre was involved in Anne Summers’ Town Hall conversation with former prime minister Julia Gillard.

The event covered Gillard’s time in power, the challenges, struggles with the media and the then-Opposition, and her own sometimes controversial positions on issues including misogyny, gay marriage and the price on carbon.

We chatted with attendees of the packed-out event afterwards, to get their views.

Watch the video (8 minutes)

Watch the video (8 minutes)

‘Julia Gillard has meant a lot to women in my age bracket,’ said one young woman, a political and lifestyle blogger. ‘Even though it’s been hard to watch what we hoped she’d represent initially falter, tonight gives me a great sense of hope for the future.’

Another woman, a former law colleague of Julia Gillard’s who has followed her career with interest, said that she was ‘a bit unhappy’ with how Gillard was treated in public life. ‘I thought the misogyny was extraordinary, and I thought the way that she met it, with her grace and her refusal to be too affected by it, or too drawn into it, was just extraordinary.’

‘I think Julia Gillard has been one of the most important people of our lifetime,’ said one man. ‘It was important for me to be here to listen to her, and to pay tribute to what she’s done for this country.’

Like many in the crowd, he was surprised at ‘her clear lack of bitterness at what has happened to her and her optimism for the future, and her optimism for women in public life’.

‘I watch her misogyny speech weekly,’ said one unabashed fan, a young woman who is a member of the Labor Party and was visibly excited at the chance to hear Gillard speak. ‘When she left the leadership, it was just such a shock.’

Another woman was pleasantly surprised by Gillard’s reasoning for her position on gay marriage. ‘I think her position about the state’s involvement in people’s personal relationships has some merit. To hear her say that was the real reason is the first real time I’ve heard her speak from that position. That was a surprise, and a relief in some respects.’

The lifestyle and political blogger said Gillard’s response to gay marriage seemed ‘so far left, it’s in some ways Marxist – in that there should be no marriage at all for anybody’. She was sceptical that Gillard’s position was ‘relevant to the community’.

‘We need strong moral and political conversations – and more of them – in this country,’ said one man, on his way home from the event. ‘Tonight was a taster. It was terrific.’

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