Julia Gillard has official portrait unveiled in Parliament

Julia Gillard has official portrait unveiled in Parliament
Prime Minister Julia Gillard with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Photo: U.S. Department of State, Wikimedia Commons

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the first woman to hold the office, has had her official portrait unveiled in Parliament House. Her portrait was commissioned ahead of her predecessor and successor, Kevin Rudd, and the ceremony was attended by her rival (and future Prime Minister) Tony Abbott.

Gillard was the 27th Prime Minister of Australia (the current office holder, Scott Morrison, is number 30) and served between 2010 and 2013. She led a Labor minority government in that time after deposing Kevin Rudd through the party room. Her leadership ended when Caucus replaced her with Rudd.

Ms Gillard’s portrait will hang next to John Howard’s in the gallery of Prime Ministers, and looks quite different to the other paintings. Apart from being the only woman with a spot on the wall, she had her painting done from the neck up rather than being a full body portrait.

She says that this was a deliberate choice because of the relentless focus on what she wore during her time in office. No matter how important what she was doing was, whether in international meetings or promoting legislation, her clothing would always be one of the talking points coming out of the story – a frustration shared by many powerful women.

The only other Prime Minister to attend the ceremony was Tony Abbott, who was opposition leader during Gillard’s premiership. He was her arch rival, and in fact won more seats at the 2010 election (which resulted in the first hung parliament since 1940) yet saw Gillard claim government with the support of almost the entire crossbench. He put that behind him to congratulate Ms Gillard, although their handshake and conversation seemed decidedly frosty.

Ms Gillard was also in Canberra for the final findings of the Royal Commission into child abuse, which she implemented, and the official apology by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. She regards this commission as one of her greatest achievements as leader of Australia.

There have been no official statements about the paintings and timing of portraits for Rudd, Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull.