What Happened When Julia Gillard and RiRi Went to Malawi

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Nov 16, 2017

Post-politics travel for the former PM, now chair of beyondblue, has been 
a mix of nostalgia, new experiences and restorative downtime. Interview by Di Webster.

2013: South Australia

ADELAIDE
When I was first living in Altona in Melbourne’s west, I used to walk my little Pomeranian dog on the beach; Tim [Mathieson] and I made it a regular feature 
of our life there. As an MP, there was less and less time to do that.
In 2013, post-politics, I moved back to my home town, Adelaide. That first walk on the beach near our home brought back all my childhood memories. It’s lovely to experience the full cycle of seasons to see how the beach changes – the water, the seaweed, the dunes and the tide – and also how the people change, from dedicated dog walkers rugged up in winter to people in summer gear on a bright, sunny day.
Now, as Tim and I take Reuben, our Cavoodle, for 
runs on the beach, I know how important physical exercise 
and a mental break is to your wellbeing. In my new role [at beyondblue], I’ve got science to back that up! It really matters.

2015 | United Kingdom

WALES
I emigrated from Wales with 
my family in 1966, when I was four. Though I’d been back a 
few times, in 2015 the National Assembly for Wales asked me 
to give a talk in their series about women and Wales.
After that, I forced Tim to 
go on the “Julia Gillard, This Is Your Life” tour. We hired a car and drove to Barry, where my mother is from, then stood in front of the house I was born 
in and got a sneaky photo.
On another day, we went to Cwmgwrach, the coalmining village where my father was born. As I stood outside his old house, ready for Tim to take a shot, the man who lived there came charging out the door, calling out to his wife, “I told you she’d come!” They had 
seen publicity of me in Wales. The family invited us in for morning tea and we ended up exchanging Christmas cards.
 It was fantastic.

2017 | East Africa

MALAWI
I chair the Global Partnership for Education, a fund that supports developing countries to improve school education. This year, I travelled to Malawi with Rihanna, our ambassador.
We went to schools that 
had been made by villagers 
out of mudbricks, with 100 kids 
to a classroom and almost no textbooks. We went to a girls’ secondary school and I’ll always remember the moment they realised that Rihanna was 
there. It was like when Justin Bieber’s in town – screaming, squealing teenagers.
You realise how globalised our world is when you’re in a girls’ school in Malawi and they all know who Rihanna is and half of them are breaking into her songs! Because she’s so 
used to it, she was warm and engaged. She was like the Pied Piper; wherever she moved, there were hundreds and hundreds of girls around her.

On the radar

Beyondblue’s national anxiety campaign is now underway. Visit beyondblue.org.au 
to learn more.

SEE ALSO: How to Experience Canberra Like a Politician

Photography credit: Calum Robertson. Illustrations: Liz Kay