Julia Gillard was born in Barry, Wales, United Kingdom. She moved to Australia at the age of four and grew up in Adelaide, South Australia.
Gillard grew up in a devout Baptist household. She apparently lived fairly close to the pastor of her church and befriended his daughter. She went to church regularly, attended a youth group, and even won prizes for memorizing bible passages. But somewhere along the way, she says, she “found a different path.”
In 2010, shortly after being elected as Australia’s first female prime minister, she revealed that although she greatly respects religious beliefs, she herself is “not a religious person.” Speaking about how that might affect her popularity among Christian voters, she said,
I am not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel. And for people of faith the greatest compliment I could pay to them is to respect their genuinely held beliefs and not to engage in some pretense about mine. I think it’s not the right thing.
It doesn’t appear she feels the need to belabor the subject, but she did mention in an interview with an American newspaper that she never would have been successful in U.S. politics. She said,
I think it would be inconceivable for me if I were an American to have turned up at the highest echelon of American politics being an atheist, single and childless. It says something about Australians in the sense that people are less interested in whether their leaders are people of faith than Americans are.
That is certainly true. But speaking of politics. . .
Julia Gillard grew up in a pro-Labor household and said she and her sister were “sort of Labor by instinct.” She believed from a young age that it was government’s obligation to look after the underprivileged and under-served. So when she first entered politics when she was attending University, it was an obvious choice for her to join Labor–although she said she was quite a bit more conservative than many of her classmates. ((Julia Gillard Interview Transcript. Australian Broadcasting Network.))
In her roles as both Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister–a post she assumed in 2010–Gillard has advanced several goals of the liberal agenda, even within a coalition government. She has helped pass a carbon tax to combat global warming, implemented reforms on the education system which helped increase enrollment at universities, and managed to pass a health care reform bill. She has also focused on women’s rights in her political career from becoming a founding member of Emily’s List, a program that supports pro-choice politicians, to passing paid parental leave for working parents.
But despite her position in the Labor party, not all of her views are particularly liberal. She described her pro-Labor family as “quite conservative” when it came to social values, and said her upbringing defined her position on gay marriage:
I think that there are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future. . . . I think for our culture, for our heritage, the Marriage Act and marriage being between a man and a woman has a special status.
Apart from her opposition to the issue being conservative in its own right, her emphasis on maintaining tradition for its own sake reveals a particularly socially conservative general philosophy.
This article is much too short to do Gillard’s political views much justice, but if you’re looking for a solid outline of her positions on a variety of issues, her Wikipedia page is a great place to start.