Once upon a time in a little land called Australia, ok it was a big land but a small population, there was a female politician called Julia. She had been born from immigrants who had seen education as the key to advancement and this she did. She advanced in spades until one day she entered Parliament. She worked hard, got on well with others and negotiated through such hostile environments that she was accepted and became very important – so important that she played second fiddle to the very important white males who were the leaders. And then one day, when things weren’t going so well amongst the important white males she thought she may as well be the leader. Naturally, as happens in quaint little democracies, there were loud howls of protest. But she put her head down, did what lots of women do, cleaned up the mess, and got on with business.
For a period it all seemed to be going well. She went to the people and they were not too excited about how she came to power but they trusted her enough to vote for her team. She did not win outright – she had to govern with a hung parliament – but remarkably she used her negotiating skills and with the help of some independents, she governed the land. Now things were not easy, some of the important white males kept wanting to go back to one of their own, the important white male who had made a bit of a mess of things. And Julia, now an important Prime Minister, had perhaps been a bit too friendly with the important white males who like to pull the strings. But, all in all, everyone would have to agree that the Prime Minister really had achieved a great many things. She had passed some ground breaking tobacco laws, she had changed the funding model for schools to make it fairer, she had negotiated a disability insurance scheme, that all agreed with but strangely no one had done before, she had improved parental leave, wages for child care workers and a carbon tax. (There was much squabbling about whether she had said previously she would use another way to put a price on carbon but she had to negotiate with the hung parliament so she had to do the best she could.)
Now no-one is saying she was perfect: one person who you would have thought was her friend, suggested she should wear better jackets; she didn’t speak like a nice girl who went to a nice private school; she also had a past boyfriend who embarrassed her. Indeed there were a myriad of things that translated into things called polls that said she was not very good. But the land prospered. While many other countries struggled with a terrible global financial crisis, little Australia seemed to do well. The important white male who the Prime Minister replaced had done a few good things too. He’d actually steered the economy by building many school halls. (Some weren’t built very well though!) And he’d apologised to the first people of the land who had been stolen. Actually, everyone felt a bit bad about what had happened to him. As we know, hindsight is a beautiful thing. But Julia was the leader and her colleagues seemed to like her, and even though she wasn’t very popular, she seemed to be getting things done.
Now it came to pass that no matter what Julia did no one would notice. But if one of the important white males thought another white male could do it better, there was sure to be a lot of noticing. We all know that lovely saying that actions speak louder than words, well in this little Topsy-turvy land it was the opposite. The words ruled and the people who wrote them, both clever males and clever females seemed to get a lot of oxygen. And the people were confused: it was those things called polls. The people kept being asked what they thought of the prime minister after they were told that everyone else thought she wasn’t very good.
Like in all Hollywood films, or in fables and fairy stories there should be a happy ending. And a happy ending might be that she found a new life and finally in the light of hindsight people might say she had done a good job after all. But it seems a little sad that in the land where an immigrant girl from no where can advance to become the leader of the nation and the first female prime minister, the people can not find it in their hearts to recognise that the going has been tough, the playing fields have not been even and that many who work with her say she is a good leader, despite the mountainous terrain. Time does bring out the truth in these matters which brings me to the possible connection of Jane Austen and Julia Gilliard. Austen, in her novel, Mansfield Park, created Fanny Price, a character that no one really liked. She was not very popular and was an outsider. She was treated poorly, taken for granted and under estimated. She becomes a heroine, not because she wins the man, but because she is ultimately proved right; she withstood the bullying from Important White Male privilege and she stays true to herself and her own values.