26 September 2023

Tanya Plibersek: On Her Own Terms

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Margaret Simons, Black Inc., $34.99.

Regarded as of one of Australia’s most influential women, the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, is driven by a commitment to equity and social change.

Elected to Federal Parliament aged just 28, she has lived almost half her life in the public eye, and is the longest-serving woman in Australia’s House of Representatives.

Throughout her career, Plibersek, 53, has campaigned for social justice reform on issues such as paid parental leave, violence against women and rights for same-sex couples.

Award-winning journalist Margaret Simons draws on exclusive interviews with Plibersek, her political contemporaries, family and close friends to trace the personal and political strands of this modern Australian story.

She considers Plibersek’s role in the Rudd and Gillard governments, Labor’s soul-searching years in opposition and Plibersek’s position in the Albanese cabinet. She also sheds light on the personal currents that have carried Plibersek, through moments of joy and tragedy, to become the person she is today.

We learn about some family pain, what she values, what drives her, even what we can expect from her next. Plibersek was born in Sydney to Slovenian parents, both of whom fled post-war Europe as young adults.

Tanya had always struck Simons as “more than competent and an excellent communicator.” Her family history was another drawcard. “I have always been moved by the stories of the young men and women who moved half a world away from Europe from the trauma” of World War II. “In many ways, Joe and Rose Plibersek are the true heroes of this narrative.”

Author of biographies of Malcolm Fraser and Penny Wong, Margaret said Plibersek “turned out to be an absorbing subject. Despite her cooperation with this book, she was always cautious in self-revelation. She was a complex and layered subject, as I hope this book reveals.”

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