Julia Gillard became Australia’s first woman prime minister yesterday, after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd abruptly stepped down from his position. Gillard, who has been the deputy prime minister for nearly three years, was unanimously selected by the Labor Party. As prime minister, Rudd had low approval ratings and faced opposition from within the party. He stepped down from his position in order to avoid a party vote on his leadership that would have undoubtedly resulted in his removal from office.
Gillard, 48, was originally born in Wales but moved to Australia at the age of 4, according to the Associated Press. Her interest in politics developed while she was studying law at University. She was first elected to the Australia parliament in 1998.
Upon being elected, Gillard said, “My values and beliefs have driven me to step forward to take this position as prime minister. I will lead a strong and responsible government that will take control of our future,” according to the New York Times. While in office, Gillard plans to continue stimulus policies and intends to keep Australian troops in Afghanistan, reported the Associated Press.
The once-popular Rudd began to lose support in February, when aspects of his Economic Stimulus Package were shrouded by claims of mismanagement and corruption. His unpopularity grew when he enacted a controversial mining tax. Gillard is seen as more personable than Rudd and Labor Party Officials hope she will be able to regain public support for the party, reported the New York Times.
According to the Associated Press, Gillard has said that she looks up to women who are able to balance having a job and a family. When asked if she sees significance in being Australia’s first female prime minister, she responded by saying: “First woman, maybe first redhead – I’ll allow you to contemplate which was more unlikely in the modern age.” According to CNN, having a female prime minister is seen as long overdue in Australia.