Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard speaks at Global Engagement Speaker Series

Corbin Reiter

Colorado State University hosted Julia Gillard, the former 27th prime minister of Australia, to speak as a part of the Global Engagement Distinguished Lecture Series on Monday.

Gillard’s speech marked the sixth iteration of this event. It was sponsored primarily by the Office of International Programs, however, many other sponsors contributed.

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The Associated Students of CSU allocated $6,000 to the Office of International Programs to help their plan to bring Gillard to campus in September 2018. 

Rick Miranda, the provost and executive vice president of CSU, introduced Gillard by recounting her accomplishments in office and beyond.

“Gillard helped to develop guiding policy papers and delivered nation-changing policies, including reforming education at every level,” Miranda said.

Gillard spoke on issues including gender equality, how to renew democracy and what needs to be done to cooperate on solving modern issues, among others.

“What I want to do in this talk tonight is give a new perspective on issues faced in today’s world,” Gillard said.

Gillard began her speech with a brief overview of the opportunities provided to her that contributed to her political success. She then discussed the benefits of educating children and, particularly, women.

“In 200 milliseconds, your brain computes gender and race. Your brain doesn’t tell you what baggage to put on that computation; it is our culture that does that.” Julia Gillard, the former 27th prime minister of Australia

“If you educate a girl, you don’t only change her life, but you change the life of her future family and the life of her community,” Gillard said.

Gillard said if the education systems in the United States and Australia were the only inhibitors to gender equality, both countries would be equal. Despite those education systems, she said there is still significant gender inequality.

Gillard commented that women and men are valued and measured differently through the lens of shared experience and values.

“In 200 milliseconds, your brain computes gender and race,” Gillard said. “Your brain doesn’t tell you what baggage to put on that computation; it is our culture that does that.”

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Since women and men are valued and perceived differently, Gillard said, we must make an active effort to dispell the stereotypes imposed upon us by society and maintain a mission to create a more progressive society. She believes both women and men have the responsibility to enact change.

Woman addresses audience on stage
“All of us have the responsibility to be an agent of change, men and women both,” says Julia Gillard. The former prime minister of Australia addresses the Fort Collins community in the Colorado State University Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom regarding her time as a woman in politics, as well as her advice to best live in the present. Apr. 8 (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

“All of us have a responsibility to be an agent of change if we want to create a different world,” Gillard said.

On the topic of declining democracy, Gillard said it is the break down of functioning democracies, like the U.S. and Australia, that contribute to the corrosion of democracy as a whole, citing Freedom Houses’ 2018 report. She added that the strength of political and civil rights in developed nations contributes to the health of democracy in the world.

With the sweeping change of globalization that has affected both the U.S. and Australia, Gillard said there is a loss of faith that the next generation will be able to live better than the last, and many citizens have associated this with large movements that are pushing for change.

“We aren’t as good as we should be in reassuring people on journies of change,” Gillard said.

Gillard ended her speech with words of advice about how to live in this age. She told students it is advantageous to have strength and a clear sense of self to guide actions and be able to distinguish between the urgent and the important.

“We can show enlightened communities what it is like to renew democracy at a local level,” Gillard said, “You can model at a local level what the spirit of democracy looks like.”

Corbin Reiter can be reached at news@collegian on twitter @CorbinReiter.