Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, reflects on her experience as a Commonwealth leader, and discusses the future role of the Commonwealth on the global stage, in particular fostering democratic values and countering radicalisation.
The Australia I grew up in was conscious in every way of its connections to the United Kingdom and its status as a Commonwealth country. History classes were largely the study of British history, with a focus on Captain Cook and the ‘discovery’ of Australia. In geography lessons the world was divided into the pink countries – the Commonwealth countries – and the rest of them.
During my coming of age the Commonwealth was playing a visible and honorable role in seeking the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1977, my second last year at school, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, collectively endorsed the first international move in the global campaign to isolate South Africa from world sport. The United Nations boycott followed six months later.
In 1979, my first year at university, the Commonwealth Heads of Government issued the Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice, the central statement of the Commonwealth’s abhorrence of all forms of racism, including in members’ own societies. In 1986, the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group visited Nelson Mandela in prison and ‘set out the negotiating concept to end apartheid in South Africa peacefully.’
CHOGM 2011 and the Commonwealth Charter
Of the global multilateral events I attended as Prime Minister, CHOGM was the most unusual. It was long – held over three days, including a leaders-only session that lasted an extraordinary day and a half. And it is large, a gathering of more than 50 nations…
former Prime Minister of Australia