Squiz Kids Q+A with Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister

SQUIZ KIDS Q&A with Julia Gillard


Former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard answer questions from Aussie kids in a special Squiz Kids Q+A.

She talks about life in an Adelaide migrant camp, her earliest memories of school, her favourite bands growing up and the women who influenced her. She speaks of the weight of responsibility she felt becoming Prime Minister – plus the sexism she encountered along the way.

But mostly she sounds a rallying cry for kids all over the country to ‘dream big’, work hard and never ever let their gender define them.




HOST (Bryce Corbett – BC): Hello, and welcome to this very special edition of the Squiz Kids Q&A, the podcast where you, the kids of Australia, get to ask the questions. I’m Bryce Corbett. And joining us today in the Squiz Kids Q&A hot seat is none other than the former Australian Prime Minister herself, Julia Gillard. Julia was Australia’s Prime Minister from 2010 to 2013.

And, if you can believe it, she was Australia’s very first female Prime Minister. Which, 13 years ago, was a very big deal, and still is to this day. There was a lot of news around at the time about how, by becoming Prime Minister, she had demonstrated that girls can do anything. Which, of course, they can. And had inspired a generation of little girls to believe that one day they too could rise to the highest office in the land.

She’s since left the Australian political scene and gone on to achieve all sorts of remarkable things internationally. And always flying the flag for girls and the importance of education. So, let’s plonk her in this Squiz Kids hot seat and get her to answer the questions that you’ve sent in.

Julia Gillard, welcome to Squiz Kids!

Julia Gillard – JG: I am delighted to be here. Thank you.

We are delighted to have you. It’s such an honour. Now, Julia, before we jump into all the questions, you came to Australia as a five-year-old, if I’m correct, with your family from Wales and went to primary school in Adelaide. What are your earliest memories of arriving in Australia and heading off to a new school in a new country? It must have been a bit scary.

JG: Yeah, I think it was a bit scary. I didn’t go to school straight away. I was actually four turning five when we arrived. So my earliest, earliest, earliest memory is of being in a migrant hostel, which was like a big camp that people who’d just migrated to Australia would go to, and that was scary because there were lots and lots of people around. And then I went the next year to school to Mitcham Infant School. And I remember the playground there, which was actually a lot of concrete. But when the bell rang, you had to stand still like a statue. And if you were very, very good, you’d get picked to ring the bell to get everybody back in classes. Yes. So that was very, very exciting.

And of course, Mitcham Primary School is still there.

JG: The infant school I went to, which was just for the little kids, that’s no longer there. It got merged into Mitcham Primary.. So, I went to Mitcham Infant when I was in Grade 1 and 2, and then in Grade 3, I transferred to Mitcham Primary, and then when I got to be a bigger kid, I went to Unley High School.

And a shout out to all our listeners at Mitcham Primary and Unley High School. Now of course you rose to become Prime Minister of Australia. A lot of our listeners come from migrant backgrounds too. What’s the lesson here regarding the heights that you can aspire to?

JG: The lesson here is dream really big because you can do anything. I didn’t dream of being Prime Minister when I was a child. The ambition to be in politics came to me later. But If you’d said to me when I was a child, you could be Prime Minister one day, I would have said, “Oh no, people like me from families like ours, we don’t get to do things like that”. But my life has proved that yes, you do. So really think broadly, think of big things and don’t be afraid to go after those very big dreams.

Inspiring stuff. Thank you. Now, I know you’re a very busy woman and I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Shall we jump straight in?

Very happy to.

Alrighty. And our first question comes from Millie, who’s 11 years old and lives in Brisbane.

(MILLIE): Hi, my name is Millie. I am 11 years old, and I live in Brisbane. I have two questions for Julia Gillard. My questions are… First, did you have a favourite teacher? Who was it? And second, and if you went back in time to time visit yourself in primary school, what would you tell yourself? Thank you.

JG: I did have a favourite teacher. When I was at Mitcham Primary, the deputy principal was a man called Mr Crow. And even though he had the very important position of being deputy principal, he also taught us English. And he was one of those teachers that just made everything fun and interesting. And we got to write our own plays and perform the plays and read books and talk about books and all of these years later, and it is a long, long time later, I’m still a big reader. And really a lot of that is about Mr. Crow and how inspirational he was. So, a great teacher is an amazing person and they stay with you for the rest of your life. And if I could go back in time, I would say. You know, the big dreams are important. You know, I thought when I was at school, I’d like to be a teacher when I grew up, just because I saw teachers doing important things. Then over time, a friend’s mother talked to me about going into the law. So I decided that that sounded really good. So I studied law and I think just keeping your mind open about what you can do and who you can be in the world is really important.

BC: Excellent advice. Our next question is quite topical, given what we’ve just been chatting about. It comes from nine-year-old Tanushi.

TANUSHI: Hi, my name is Tanushi. I am nine years old, and I live in Sydney, NSW. My question is, what made you or your parents migrate to Australia?

JG: They migrated simply because they saw a better chance of a good life in Australia. My father in particular thought that there would be better jobs, more economic opportunities, more ability to build a family life. And my mother had always been a little bit more sceptical about going to the other side of the world. And this was in the days when you didn’t have FaceTime or Facebook or any of those things. You’d have to write back home on a little blue aerogram letter to get the news. So she was a bit more sceptical but ultimately decided that yes, it would be a great opportunity. And the other thing was when I was really little, I was not very well. I was born with bronchial pneumonia, or I got bronchial pneumonia as a baby, which is a… very bad, cold chest condition, which makes you very unwell. And my parents were told by doctors that I’d go better in a warmer climate. So, wow, did we move to a warmer climate, because Adelaide, Australia, all of it is much warmer than where we came from in Wales.

BC: Now, speaking of warmer climates, we have a great question now from a Squiz Kids listener in Singapore. Take it away, Emily.

EMILY: Hi, my name is Emily. I’m eight years old and I live in Singapore. My question is, did you have any female role models who inspired you when growing up?

JG: My biggest original female role model was of course my mother, who not only managed my sister and I, which was pretty hard to do, but also worked as a cook in an aged care facility. So, watching her taught me a lot about trying to combine work and family life and working really hard. She did work really hard. And then when I got a bit older and I was in high school, I had some great friends, twin girls, Lynn and Kathy. And their mother, Marlene, became a great role model for me. And she was the first one to ever suggest to me I should think about going into the law. And she was just one of those women who’d had a lot of global lifetime experience. They were from South Africa. And she sort of opened my eyes to the fact that there was a bigger world out there than Adelaide. And to think about that world and where I should be in it. So she was a great role model. And then when I was an adult and in politics or thinking about going into politics, Joan Kirner, who was the first woman to be Premier of the state of Victoria, was a great mentor and friend to me.

BC: Fantastic. Now let’s head back to Australia and to the outskirts of Sydney in Camden, where we find nine-year-old Leah.

LEAH: Hi, my name is Leah. I am nine years old, and I live in Camden in New South Wales. My questions are, Miss Gillard, how did you feel when you were elected as Prime Minister? And who was your favourite singer or band?

JG: Well, they’re two very different questions.

BC: Covering all bases there, Leah.

JG: Yeah. When I became Prime Minister, it was in a rush, so I hadn’t had… all that much time to emotionally prepare for it. But my emotions were really about the weight of the responsibility. You get sworn in by the Governor General, who was then Quentin Bryce, so the first woman, to be Governor General, swearing me in as the first woman to be Prime Minister. So, the swearing in ceremony does you know, give that sense to you that a big weight is coming down on your shoulders because being Prime Minister is a very big job. But I also had this sense of elation that for the first time ever, our nation was going to have this image of two women, Governor General and Prime Minister. And I really hoped that that would show to girls that they really could do anything in Australia, that no position was closed to them. And just because they’d always been done by men in the past, didn’t mean that they had to be done by men in the future.

And then on my favourite music, favourite bands, I mean, I grew up in the Cold Chisel era. So I loved all of that. Bruce Springsteen, Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics, all of the kids are going to go and have to ask their parents or even possibly their grandparents about what I’m talking about.

BC: We might stick some links in the episode notes to some YouTube clips of these old favourites which are some of my old favourites too. That places us in terms of age, doesn’t it? Up to sunny Queensland now, where we meet up with nine-year-old Olive, who has a couple of questions too.

OLIVE: Hi, my name is Olive. I’m nine years old and I live in Wynnum in Queensland. My questions are, what was the toughest thing you had to face in your career? And do you have any advice for kids who want to follow in your footsteps?

JG: The great thing about politics is it gives you huge opportunities to put your values into action, to change your nation, to make a difference in the world. The bad thing about it is it’s pretty stressful. The nature of the job is very publicly exposed. Any errors you make are there right on public display. So that does make it a rollercoaster. There are plenty of good times but plenty of times when you’re under huge amounts of pressure. And sometimes those huge amounts of pressure also combine with things in your family life that are tough. For example, when I was Prime Minister and I was away in Russia, representing Australia at a big international meeting, that was when my father, who had been unwell, died. And so there was this huge family crisis as well as this huge responsibility for the nation. So, there can be times when life throws up, you know, very difficult things and you’re still required to do important things at work and you manage your way through those things with lots of love and support from family and friends and from your colleagues and that’s what happened for me. I felt incredibly nurtured and looked after and so when you look out on your life as a, as a very young person, there are many, many happy times to come. But if there are the occasional tough times, then looking for the support around you from family and friends is really important. And don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it.

BC: Excellent advice. Staying now in Queensland and we’re off to Kingaroy, where Annabelle has a question, which I have to say a lot of kids wrote in wanting to ask you.

ANNABELLE: Hi, my name is Annabelle. I’m 11 years old and I live in Kingaroy in Queensland. My questions are, how did you cope with sexism when you were in parliament, and what advice would you give to other girls at school who feel that boys aren’t taking them or their ideas seriously because they are a girl? Thank you.

JG: Great question. Great question. I did encounter sexism in Parliament. In fact, even before I came into Parliament, I was in a generation of women in my political party, the Labor Party, that was trying to change things. So, we were trying to get more women into Parliament, and we succeeded at that. And when there are more women around, that kind of changes the environment, and then there are other women with you, and you can look to them for support. So that was really important. But being the first woman to do the job, you know, necessarily some of the things that happened, happened to me first because there hadn’t been any other woman who had done the job before me. And it did get to a stage where I was very frustrated about that and very frustrated by the fact that so much of the commentary around me as prime minister was sexist. And there was a day in parliament where I had an opportunity to talk about that. And I gave a speech that’s come to be known as ‘The Misogyny Speech’. So, it’s a very big word, but it’s really about treating women as much, much lesser than men. And my advice having gone through that experience is if something is not right in your school and girls are being treated lesser than boys, that’s something to raise, to talk about, to talk to your teachers about, if you don’t feel you can raise it by yourself, maybe with a group of your girlfriends, you can all go together because things only change if we point out what’s wrong and then go on a campaign to change it.

BC: Excellent advice. Now, I know you do a lot of work promoting the importance of education, especially in other countries where it’s not as easy as it is in Australia to go to school. So, this question from Georgie in Canberra, I think should resonate.

GEORGIE: Hello, my name is Georgie. I am 10 years old from Canberra, and this is my question. I know sometimes here in Australia we take getting an education for granted, when in some countries they can’t get an education, especially girls, even if they wanted to. So, can you please tell us the importance of schooling and education, and what role it played helping you become the first female prime minister?

JG: This is a really important question and I’d ask you to imagine in your mind how many people there are in Australia. You know, millions and millions and millions of people. And then try and imagine in your mind that number times by ten. And that’s the number of children around the world who never get to go to school. You know, it’s… 240, 250 million children never get to go to school, and they’re in countries where they’re very poor or they might have been displaced, they might have had to flee from where they usually live because of violence or famine or something really bad in their country. And for those children, never going to school means they’re on a pathway where it’s hard for them to build a life, to change their lives, to, you know, get out of poverty, to earn money, to have the things that in Australia, many of us take for granted. You know, getting to live in a home with your family, you know, getting to go to a local park, having, you know, playgrounds and things to do, having your parents, people in your family, in jobs, able to earn money, bring that home so they can buy things, food and other things that you need. Many children around the world in their hundreds of millions don’t experience all of that.

And so, I get it that there are mornings when you get up and you think, “Oh, I’ve got to go to school”. But really, school is a big way of getting you ready for the rest of your life. And setting you up for success and maybe in those moments when you’re thinking, oh, I really don’t want to go to school, imagine what it would be like to never go and to never learn to read or write or count or, you know, know about geography or history or any of the things that you learn in school to live your life without any of the knowledge. Imagine how hard that would be and then hopefully be a little bit more cheerful and enthusiastic about going to school.

BC: There you go kids put a spring in your steps. You’ve been ordered to do so by the former Prime Minister of Australia. Now down to Altona in Victoria, a place you’d be very familiar with. Where, we have a question from nine-year-old Indigo.

INDIGO: Hi, my name’s Indigo. I’m nine years old and I live in Altona in Victoria. My question is, what was your favourite thing you did as a Prime Minister?

JG: Well, I used to love it, Indigo, when I got back home to Altona periodically because that’s where my own home was. When you’re Prime Minister, you live in official residences, there’s one in Canberra, which was my main home, and one in Sydney. But every so often I managed to sneak back to Altona, and I absolutely loved that. But doing the job as Prime Minister, the really, the happiest times for me was when we’d been working on something really nation-changing, and it would just take so much work. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of thinking and writing and reading and having meetings and trying to make this big thing happen. And then you’d get to the stage that it was done. And they were the happiest moments for me. So, when we did things like, got through the parliament what’s come to be called the National Disability Insurance Scheme – which is a better way of helping out adults and kids with disabilities. It was that moment where you could say to yourself, wow, that’s truly, you know, launched now. It’s definitely going to happen. They were the most joyful times.

BC: Wonderful. All right, we’re almost at the end. How are you going there in the Squiz Kids hot seat? Not too many curly questions from these kids, I hope.

JG: I’m going okay so far.

BC: Second last question, which perhaps needs a little bit of context. Felix from Moorooka has a question about misinformation and social media after his class has recently completed Newshounds, which is Squiz Kids free media literacy program for primary school kids.

FELIX: Hi, my name is Felix, and I am 9 years old, and I live in Moorooka. We have been doing the Squiz Kids Media Literacy Program, Newshounds in class, where Squiz-E the Newshound teaches us to Stop, Think, and Check before believing everything we see online. How important is it to be on the lookout for misinformation when we’re online?

JG: Well, Squiz-E is giving you some very, very, very good advice and Newshounds is a terrific program. What we see online and sometimes in just the traditional media, in our newspapers, on our TV bulletins, it’s not always right. And sometimes it’s not right just because people are human, and people make mistakes. And when big things have happened in the world, often it’s hard to get, you know, quickly, they want to get the news to you quickly, which is understandable, but it’s hard to quickly get everything right because situations are fast-moving. So sometimes people have just made mistakes. But in the world we live in with online media, sometimes people are deliberately putting fake things there because they’re trying to, they’ve got a particular view of the world, they’re trying to get other people to think the same way. And even though it’s wrong, they try and shape views by putting fake things there. And the way the technology is going, that’s going to get more and more and more over time. And the nature of the fake things are going to get more and more sophisticated. So it will be harder to spot what’s really true and what’s not right.

And so, the more thoughtful you can be about what you see online the better – you know, read it, think about it. Does it really sound like it’s right? Does it sound odd? Is something, you know, raising the hair on the back of your neck making you think that’s not right? You know, don’t just take it at face value. Check a number of sources. Check very reputable sources. You know, the ABC is always a good place to go if you’re trying to work out what is actually going on. Because they go to a lot of trouble to make sure what they put up is right. And then you will… at least know whether what you’re seeing are facts or opinions. And listening to other people’s opinions is important too, but it’s vital to not confuse facts with opinions. You know what the facts are, and then you can read other people’s opinions and make up your own mind.

BC: Excellent advice. Now finally, a great question from Hudson in Canberra.

HUDSON: Hi, my name is Hudson, and I’m nine years old, and I live in Canberra. My question is, I have ADHD, and it can be hard to focus sometimes, but other times, I can focus really good. I was wondering… If you ever wished you had a superpower like mine? And if so, what superpower do you wish you had?

JG: Oh, if I could have a superpower, I’d like to be able to, click my fingers and just turn up in a different place.

BC: That sounds like somebody who does a lot of international travel…

JG: I do a lot of travel. The nature of Australian politics is you do a lot of travel. You’re always going around the country, which is absolutely fabulous because you get to meet lots and lots of people in very different communities. But, all of the, you know, trains, planes, automobiles, all of that in between,  that can get a bit wearing. So wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to click your fingers and go, Ooh, I’m in Sydney today, meeting some really exciting people. Ooh, now I’m going to click my fingers and a second later, here I am in Perth, meeting some new exciting people. And then click your fingers again and be in London. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’d love that superpower.

BC: That would be the best superpower. To all the very clever Squiz Kids out there, the aspiring scientists and inventors of the world, if you can start working on teleportation, both the former PM and myself would appreciate that enormously.

JG: We’d be very grateful.

BC: Well, that is what we in the industry call a wrap. Julia Gillard, thank you so much for joining us here on Squiz Kids. It’s been great to have you.

JG: It’s been wonderful to be with you and what fantastic questions. Thank you.

BC: They are such clever kids, aren’t they? Now listeners, if this is the first time you’ve stumbled across us during the school term, Squiz Kids is a daily news podcast made just for kids. A kid friendly take on the big news headlines. Fun, free, fresh. And teachers, don’t forget about Newshounds, our free media literacy resource teaching primary school kids how to spot misinformation when they come across it online. It’s an eight-part podcast series with accompanying classroom workbook and a teacher manual currently being trialled by no fewer than 1,750 schools around the country.

Check it all out at squizkids.com.au or simply subscribe to Squiz Kids in your favourite podcasting app. For now, this is Bryce Corbett signing off, and as is customary with our Q& As, we’re going to ask our special guest to do the traditional Squiz Kids sign off.

JG: Now get out there and have a most excellent day.

BC: Over and out.