Australia

From Greta Thunberg to Julia Gillard: Here's who Australian girls say are their role models

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A report released for Day of the Girl has found there is no shortage of female role models for Australia’s next generation of leaders to look up to.

What do education activist Malala Yousafzai, actor Emma Watson and US Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez have in common with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard?

They’ve all topped the list of female role models as identified by young women and girls in Australia.

In a new report, published on Friday by Plan International Australia, girls between 12 and 25 were asked to rank the women they admired for leading change.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.
AAP

Of this list, the top 10 included two former Australian politicians, two tennis superstars, one actor, one US congresswoman and four activists.

In the number one spot was 22-year-old Malala Youzafzai, who in 2014 became the youngest woman in history to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after being shot in the head by a Taliban member for speaking out about the need for education for women in Pakistan.

“Malala has literally been shot in the head yet still speaks up loud and proud about what she believes in,” one respondent from NSW said.

Harry Potter star and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson came in second, followed by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and the youngest member of the US Congress, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
AAP

Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard - who made history in 2012 with her “misogyny speech” in parliament - and former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, came in at numbers seven and eight respectively.

American tennis great Serena Williams (5th), tennis world No. 1 Ash Barty (6th) and Matilda’s legend Sam Kerr (10th) also made the top 10, next to US school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez and writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied (equal 9th).

The respondents were also asked to name any women who did not appear on the list who inspires them, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a clear favourite, followed by former US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard and former foreign minister Julie Bishop in 2013.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard and former foreign minister Julie Bishop in 2013.
AAP

“Jacinda Ardern inspires me so much. She is doing things to improve the lives of as many people as she can,” one respondent wrote.

Western Sydney high school student and aspiring politician, Jean Lewis, told SBS News she was inspired by Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Ms Ardern's leadership styles.

"Personally I am very interested in policy-making and they are trying to shape the future in a way that is better for everyone," she said.

"I am inspired by how passionate Jacinda Ardern is and I like that she doesn't get the hate that she gets affect her job."

Jean Lewis, 15, and her older sister Lisa, 22, who she says inspired her to get into activism.
Jean Lewis, 15, and her older sister Lisa, 22, who she says inspired her to get into activism.
SBS News

Actor and body positivity activist Jameela Jamil, former SBS presenter Jan Fran, and musicians Beyoncé and P!nk were also listed when girls were free to pick their own role models. They were named alongside anti-family violence campaigner and Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, Australian feminist Clementine Ford, YouTuber Lilly Singh and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle.

The survey, published to coincide with International Day of the Girl, also asked more than 1,400 girls what they thought the biggest issues facing society were.

In response, 53 per cent said climate change was the number one issue, compared to 18 per cent who said violence against girls and women, nine per cent who said gender inequality, and seven per cent who believed poverty was the biggest threat.

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