I love the photograph on the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald. My Prime Minister Julia Gillard being sworn in by my Governor General Quentin Bryce...and both of them are women.
Not only are both women, but they're both very admirable women. Both of them trained as lawyers and both have chosen to spend most of their adult lives in public positions. I admire people who choose to try to improve the world through changing mainstream institutions - it's often very difficult and gains can seem few and hard-won. Both have achievements in some of the areas I think most important in improving the position of women in Australia - industrial relations and their impact on women's work, and paid parental leave and childcare. Neither has had a career without conflict or setbacks, but both have persisted in achieving the outcomes from which we've benefitted.
Of course I'm regretful of the chillingly efficient way the previous Prime Minister was deposed. While Julia Gillard probably had little realistic choice but to accede in challenging for the leadership once the power brokers decided the Prime Minister was to go (I'm sure there were others aspiring to the role if Gillard had refused to challenge) it's a pity her undoubted quality and ability has not brought her the Prime Minister's role untarnished by the grubbiness of disposing of an incumbent Prime Minister.
One of my colleagues at work today pointed out that my Head of State, the Queen of Australia who is also the Queen of England, is a woman; her representative in Australia, the Governor General, is a woman; the Prime Minister is a woman; the Premier of the State in which I live, NSW, is a woman; the Queen's representative in NSW, the Governor of NSW, is a woman, and the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, my local government area, is a woman. Isn't that amazing! I can go even further - both my local State member of Parliament, and my Federal representative in Parliament are women. Everybody who represents me in any level of government is a woman.
If you'd told me in the 1970s when I first became aware of feminism that such a situation would be possible within my lifetime I would have been incredulous (though I would trade a popularly elected Australian Head of State - of any gender - for the Queen, any day). This is a moment of great hopefulness.
Now if we could just get real equal pay for women, more women on the boards of companies, cheaper or even free child care, better superannuation provision for older women...there's still so much more to strive for.