Julia Gillard proudly watched on as her official portrait was unveiled at Parliament House on Wednesday, just days after current PM Scott Morrison issued a national apology to those who fell victim to horrendous abuse in their youth – the result of a royal commission Gillard ordered during her time in office.
The 57-year-old former politician beamed with happiness as the striking artwork was revealed to the crowd, depicting her with a steely gaze and subtle smile.
Taking to the microphone on stage, she admitted she was initially hesitant to agree to the portrait – but it was a cheeky staff member who eventually changed her mind. Having then decided to do it, she said she wanted to ensure it was different to the PM portrait that came before her to represent how different her leadership was at the time.
“For me, being in Parliament House was always about purpose, it was about policy, it was about getting big things that mattered done for the nation,” she said, according to The Guardian. “I was always less attracted with the pomp that goes with being in a place like this, and I put in my mind getting my portrait done in that category of pomp and ceremony, and I wasn’t particularly interested in doing it.”
She reportedly added: “Finally, there was a day when Nina, who works in my office, came to me with a very serious expression on her face saying, ‘You know, you ought to get that portrait done before you look a hell of a lot older than you did when you were prime minister!’
“To the younger MPs in the house, you may have heard about staff that give you frank and fearless advice, that’s all in capital letters and underlined. Frank and fearless – it’s not frank and fearless until you’re winded by it. When Nina said that I thought, yes, I really should get this done.”
While Gillard admitted she would have liked the portrait to capture her top moments in politics, from negotiating the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the sleepless nights she suffered while debating the royal commission into child sexual abuse, she settled with it being “different”.
“I decided that there was one story I did want to tell. That I was different to every other prime minister who came before me in this place,” she reportedly concluded.
Sure enough, it was praised online by fellow politicians. Labor’s Andrew Leigh wrote: “Julia Gillard’s PM portrait. As with the subject, it’s unlike any of its predecessors. #auspol.”
Meanwhile, Labor MP Rob Mitchell simply added: “Sensational.”
It comes after Morrison’s national apology to those who fell victim to horrendous abuse in their youth following the Royal Commission this week. Gillard, who ordered the national inquiry in 2012, was in the lower house and penned a moving opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald ahead of his public address, in which she described the apology as “overdue”.
“The apology being delivered today to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse is an overdue acknowledgement,” she said. “Finally, the nation is saying we see you, hear you, believe you, value you and we are sorry.
“Today’s national apology is about more than just the word ‘sorry’. The institutional failures and cover-ups that compounded and prolonged the suffering of victims are a stain on our country’s history. While we cannot fully erase the pain of the past, we can help to ease its burden.
“My hope is that today stands as an important milestone on the journey of healing and reflects our commitment to walk forward hand-in-hand with survivors. I also hope it is a moment when we all commit to doing everything possible to prevent this dreadful systematic abuse of children’s trust ever happening again.”