Julia Gillard’s Altona house is up for auction this coming Saturday 14/12/2013 at 2 p.m. I believe many people will be very curious to know how much it will fetch and who will be the successful bidder.
According to a newspapers article, an inspector described the house as having huge potential as a pile of rubble. “Put up a bunch of units? You’d have to develop, to make it worthwhile,” she says. I am thinking an astute investor would not have paid a premium to pull down this house. Subdivision and redevelopment could be achieved more cheaply with a similar property elsewhere in Altona.
If you are going to pay much more for this house because the first female Australian PM has resided in it during her reign, you may as well capitalize on its “celebrity status“. Rather than diminishing or erasing its historical association through redevelopment, the investor should instead embrace, enhance and prolong its “celebrity allure“. I have suggested in a previous post that the successful bidder may consider turning this investment into a holiday rental house featuring a Prime Ministerial suite and experience, with a rich story to tell. I think Julia Lodge will be a good, appropriate name reflecting its history as this is her abode and this humble house has also operated as “The Lodge” out of Canberra over a significant duration of time.
Now I will let my imaginations run wild and explore with the readers how this holiday house could look like and what features it could have in order to resurrect the one and only Prime Ministerial experience in Australia. It may come as a surprise to you that with information publicly accessible from the internet, you can actually stock the house full of memorabilia associated with Ms Gillard.
Ms Gillard said that a favourite location in her Altona house is the rear family room where she and her partner Tim Mathieson love relaxing near the fireplace (Ref 1). Another article describes her preference of sitting closest to the fireplace in Kirribilli House, Sydney and curling up on the Lodge sofa in Canberra with Tim Mathieson, switching on Midsomer Murders and pullling out the knitting needles to work on a baby’s cardigan.
Furniture could include:
- A replica of the Lodge sofa could be put in one of the two lounges in her Altona house.
- An armchair for knitting as pictured in the photo shoot featured in the July 2003 issue of The Australian Women Weekly magazine.
Many holiday houses stock DVDs, CDs and books in the lounge to provide entertainment for their guests.
The booklist could include:
- My Story – Julia Gillard’s political memoir released in Oct 2014 by Penguin Random House (Ref 2, 2a)
- The Stalking of Julia Gillard by Fairfax journalist Kerry-Anne Walsh.
- The Making of Julia Gillard by Jacqueline Ken.
- Take Your Best Shot: The Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard by Jacqueline Ken.
- The Gillard Governments by Mark Evans, Roger Wettenhall and Chris Aulich to be released on 2/1/2014.
- Bewitched and Bedevilled – Women Write the Gillard Years by Samantha Trenoweth, published on 1/12/2013.
- Remarkable Times: Australian Politics 2010-13: What Really Happened by Laurie Oakes.
- Books on former PM Kevin Rudd, including:
- Battlelines – a 2009 book written by current PM Tony Abbott and surprisingly a book that made into her PM office (Ref 3a).
- The Grapes Of Wrath – John Steinbeck’s devastating tale of dispossession and poverty – which is her all-time favourite book (Ref 3b).
- Something Fishy by Shane Maloney (Ref 3a).
- Time for Change: Australia in the 21st Century by Tim Wright where Julia Gillard contributes the section on healthcare (Ref 3a).
- Books on knitting, including Baby Cashmerino 3 – a pattern-book by knitting titan Debbie Bliss that was used by Julia Gillard (Ref 4).
- Books on hairdressing.
- The Australian Women Weekly magazine July 2013 issue which features a photo (see above) of her knitting a Royal Kangaroo and which had attracted heavy criticism for being a publicity stunt (Ref 5, 6, 7, 8).
The DVDs could include:
- A compilation of TV programs Ms Gillard had “starred” in. I am surprised that there is an entry for Julia Gillard in IMDb (Internet Movie Database), which is usually reserved for celebrities in the show business. You can see the list of TV programs she had appeared in from her filmography. The manner this entry is written, particularly the section on her biography, is actually quite demeaning. I could recall watching her, who was then the Deputy PM, appearing on Channel Ten’s “I’m not smarter than a 5th grader” in which she won the $100,000 prize (Ref 9). The IMDb author is apparently not exhaustive enough as this reality TV episode is not included in her filmography.
- At Home With Julia – a 4-part TV series shown on ABC, and created and played by Amanda Bishop. Ms Gillard was apparently not amused by this satirical sitcom. “I think aspects of that first episode were funny but I’ve got more to do than sit around watching ABC TV,” she said (Ref 10).
- TV drama based on The Stalking of Julia Gillard, played by Rachel Griffiths, unlikely to air until at least 2015 (Ref 11).
- Her significant speeches such as the world-famous Misogynist Speech and the Concession Speech after losing to Kevin Rudd in a leadership spill on 26/6/2013.
The Concession Speech
- Interviews with Julia Gillard, including the Conversation with Anne Summers at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Town Hall. You can order the DVD here.
- Political commentaries and news snippets of Julia Gillard, including her meetings with prominent world leaders such as Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
- Videos of Julia Gillard’s “Cinderella Moments“.
- Midsomer Murders – a detective drama watched by Julia Gillard (Ref 12).
- Game of Thrones – she has named watching this fantasy drama TV series as one of her favourite pastimes (Ref 13).
- Movies of Eric Bana (including Black Hawk Down) and Cate Blanchett – her favourite film stars (Ref 14).
- Wales in Australia – a BBC documentary about the impact of the Welsh on the shaping of Australia, in which the host Huw Edwards conducted an interview with Julia Gillard (Ref 15).
- Videos on yoga, boxing and bosu ball exercises that she do (Ref 16).
- Recordings of footy games involving Western Bulldogs – she is an ardent supporter of this AFL club (Ref 17).
CDs could include her favourite music albums (Ref 18):
- Cold Chisel – Twentieth Century
- Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
- Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining
- Crowded House – Woodface
- Things Of Stone And Wood – The Yearning
Julia Gillard has on many occasions named knitting as her favourite pastime and also as a means to unwind and switch off (Ref 19, 20, 21, 22, ). When not preoccupied with leading the nation, she would spend her time at the Lodge knitting woollen cardigans for babies. To reflect this hobby, we could have in the lounge:
- Knitting materials, guide and pattern books.
- A lime-green knitting handbag with silver lining and marked with an official Air Force flight tag “CABIN: Prime Minister” that she used to carry (Ref 23, 24).
- A replica of the Royal Baby Kangaroo that she had knitted as a gift for Prince George before she was disposed as the PM and whose fate we do not know – did she still send this gift to its intended recipient? (Ref 25).
The Royal Baby Kangaroo with Julia Gillard’s dog Reuben
- A replica of the little jacket she knitted for the then Finance Minister Penny Wong’s baby daughter, Alexandra, and of a maroon smock-coat for one of her former chief of staff Amanda Lampe’s twin daughters (Ref 26).
- A replica of the scarf knitted by her that raised $4050 at a charity auction at the Federal Press Gallery’s Midwinter Ball for helping someone beats the winter chill (Ref 27).
- A replica of A Tale of Two Jules painted by artist Tony Sowersby, an entrant in the Bald Archy Prize, in 2011 depicting Julia Gillard knitting in a scene with WikiLeaks crusader Julian Assange and former Alaska governator Sarah Palin. (Ref 28).
A Tale of Two Jules by Tony Sowersby
Other stuff that could be put in the lounges may include:
- A yoga mat and a bosu ball that she does exercises with (Ref 29).
- There are quite a number of political board and card games, particularly those based on US politics (Ref 29a, 29b). In view of the political drama over the past six years, it is surprising that there is yet an entrepreneur attempt to invent a game themed after Australian politics, in which the players can take on the roles of local politicians such as Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, Julie Bishop, etc.
- A stuffed toy dog replica of Reuben – a cavoodle given as a 50th birthday present from Ms Gillard’s partner, Tim Mathieson (Ref 30). They often take Reuben for a morning walk around Cherry Lake in Altona (Ref 31). Ms Gillard has proclaimed herself to be a “dog person” (Ref 32).
Julia Gillard with Reuben at her Altona house
Photo by Joe Armao
- There is an interesting cartoon on Reuben on Crikey’s website that would look good on the wall.
- Wall paintings may include Aboriginal Art as in Kirribili House, the PM’s Sydney residence (Ref 33) or landmark photos of meeting with foreign leaders.
Julia Gillard giving Barack Obama a lesson on Aussie Rules Game in his Oval Office
- The Sherrin football that Julia Gillard gave as a present to US President Barack Obama (Ref 34). Ms Gillard had also kept a Sherrin football celebrating 150 years of AFL in her PM office at the Parliament House (Ref 34a). Perhaps Ms Gillard had parted with her treasured football, which she gifted to Mr. Obama.
This is another favourite spot in the house for Ms Gillard. How can it be presented for the telling of vivid stories?
- First, the dining table should have a replica of that infamous empty fruit bowl. Read my earlier post.
2005 Photo by Ken Irwin for Fairfax Media
- Ms Gillard loves telling this story: “We had a celebrated incident where we had a visiting foreign leader so you put dinner on for them. There was much shooing of people out of the dining room because someone spotted possum wee making its way down the wall to one of the very precious paintings from the National Gallery.” (Ref 35). We could reproduce the scene here by hanging replicas of the National Gallery paintings on the wall, a figurine of a possum, faked urinal trails down the wall as well as a written account of the story framed on the wall.
- One of the most demeaning and offensive things that was done to Ms Gillard is the creation of a supposedly “mock” menu by Joe Richards, owner of Brisbane-based Richards and Richards Restaurant at a $1000 per head fundraising dinner for Mal Brough, the LNP candidate for the federal seat of Fisher. This menu featured a dish called “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail” which is described as “Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box” (Ref 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42). This menu can be made into a table placemat. The purpose is not to ridicule Ms Gillard but to remind the guests how much sexism she has suffered.
- There could be a recipe book on Ms Gillard’s favourite dishes. She had said she loves roast lamb with lots of roast potatoes, carrots, peas, gravy and mint sauce (Ref 43).
- There is a sex scene in the TV satire “At Home with Julia” depicting Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson on the office floor draped in an Australian flag. This has provoked outrage in many viewers who feel this is disrespectful, tantamount to desecrating the Australian flag as government protocol said the flag should not fall or lie on the ground or be used as a cover (Ref 44, 45). However, I have seen many people wearing clothes (shirts, boardshorts, etc). with prints of Australian flags. Hence, I think it is alright to imprint the Union Jack motifs on bedsheets, blankets and pillow cases – firstly these aren’t flags and secondly they are placed on beds, not on the floor.
- The master bedroom is ensuite with a walk-in wardrobe. In addition to its usual function of keeping clothes and shoes, it can provide additional “accessories” to enact the “Julia Gillard presence“.
- What came to my mind first is a replica of her size 36 Midas pump blue suede shoe that was seized by the protesters from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy when she and Tony Abbott were presenting the inaugural National Emergency Medals on 26/1/2012. Read this post for further details of the story.
- Replica of the jersey presented by Western Bulldogs to her.
- Jokes were being made about Ms Gillard’s hair colour. She had been rudely labelled as a redhead and a ranga and political caricatures always try to inflate or emphasize this genetic trait of her – something that she is born with (Ref <a href=” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>46, 47). She had in fact declared that she is proud with her hair colour in a Q & A programme on ABC TV.
A red wig can be provided in the wardrobe for anyone to put on, to see whether they will in fact look better with a different hair colour.
- Soon after Ms Gillard became PM, she was criticized for her poor fashion sense of wearing heavy, brocaded coats and oversized cuffs and collars. The image consultant Imogen Lamport said the jacket she had worn resembled a cheap motel bedspread (Ref 48, 49). She suggested the PM be given a clothing allowance to polish up her appearance. The feminist Germaine Greer made this comment: “What I want her to do is get rid of those bloody jackets! They don’t fit. Every time she turns around, you’ve got that strange horizontal crease which means they’re cut too narrow in the hips. You’ve got a big arse, Julia, just get on with it.” (Ref 50, 51). The then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott agreed with this assessment. He said: “I know, I know, I know. Germaine Greer was right on this subject.” (Ref 51a). After seeing a photo of Ms Gillard visiting tsunami-ravaged Japan, the prominent Australian horse trainer and businesswoman Gai Waterhouse remarked: “She desperately needs a make-over. It wasn’t the carnage behind that gave me the horrors, but the woman standing in front of it.” (Ref 52). Apparently Ms Gillard has finally found her fashion feet for she is no longer criticized in this aspect (Ref 53, 54).
Expert tips provided by image consultant Imogen Lamport
- Many tourist spots provide period, ethnic or stage costumes for people to don and take photos as mementos. Similarly, stocking the wardrobe with some copies of Ms Gillard’s clothes before and after her makeover, such as the “technicolor screamcoat” (Ref 55) shown in the photo above, may turn out to be a tourist drawcard.
Julia Gillard Letter Box
Unlike other houses in the same street, 9 Medford Street Altona does not have a letter box. However, the new owner can install a special letter box. Anyone who wishes to send letters to Julia Gillard can mail to this address, just like children from all over the world can send Christmas cards to Santa Claus via a particular post box in Finland. I do not think Julia Gillard will be interested in receiving and reading these letters. Instead, these letters could be collected, opened and put into a nicely-decorated “Mystery Box” in the house where they can be read by the guests.
I know that Ms Gillard is at home whenever I see a red AFP (Australian Federal Police) car parked opposite her house. This is a defining characteristic of this quiet street in Altona. I would miss its presence. There could a miniaturized replica of the AFP car in the front garden which can doubled up as part of a play space for kids.
A clay or timber statue of Reuben can be used to adorn the timber decked area in the rear garden.
Ms Gillard had mentioned on many occasions that she enjoys living in Altona. Indeed, Altona is a hidden gem with many attractions and significant natural parklands that are being neglected by Melbourne tourism promoters. I have suggested itineraries of touring Altona and you can find a comprehensive coverage of Altona’s various attractions here.
One idea is to create a Julia Gillard Itinerary, covering locations in Altona that she had visited and which guests could retrace the paths she had taken. These would include Cherry Lake where she and her partner Tim often bring their dog Reuben for a walk, Altona Beach, Altona Pier and restaurants she had patronized such as Melissa Cakes in Pier Street and Waffee at Harrington Square.
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Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson at Melissa Cakes in Pier Street
In her concession speech, Ms Gillard said: “It doesn’t explain everything, it doesn’t explain nothing, it explains some things. And it is for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about those shades of grey. What I am absolutely confident of is it will be easier for the next woman and the woman after that and the woman after that. And I’m proud of that.” (Ref 56)
The holiday house operator can promote the stay as an educational experience – the chance of better understanding what Ms Gillard had gone through and of grasping the essence of the philosophy behind those shades of grey ……
PS. Maybe one day, the story of Julia Gillard will become a local legend, passed from one generation to the next and there will be this local saying: “If you have not been to Medford Street, you have not been to Altona“. While in Altona, try the Medford Street Burger from Stella Grill Restaurant located at 56 Pier Street. This is a vegetarian burger containing vegi patti, roasted bell pepper, baby spinach, Spanish onion, fetta cheese and dijonnaise (menu link).