Julia Gillard was a sickly child when she left her native Wales in search of a warmer climate. She thrived to become Australia's first female prime minister.
Gillard was 4 years old, the younger of two sisters, when the family left the Welsh coal mining village of Barry for the South Australian state capital of Adelaide. She had been hospitalized with pneumonia as a child.
Gillard studied law at universities in Adelaide and Melbourne, where she became a leader in the national student union movement. At 29, she became a partner in a prominent Melbourne law firm and specialized in industrial law. Gillard was a Labor Party state political staffer before entering the federal parliament in 1998.
She became deputy Labor leader under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after striking a deal with him in 2006 to topple then-leader Kim Beazley.
Gillard lives with a common law partner, Tim Mathieson, a hairdresser by profession. They have been together since 2006.
Gillard, 48, decided as a teenager that she never wanted children. Her stance has led to attacks from political opponents who say she is unsuitable to lead because she lacks empathy with Australian families.
Unlike her opponent Tony Abbott and predecessor Rudd, who are both staunch Christians, Gillard has declared herself agnostic.
She has been accused of being a communist over ties to the far-left group Socialist Forum _ allegations she denies. Gillard has also been branded an abortion advocate for her founding role in the pro-choice group Emily's List Australia.
The Rudd-Gillard leadership team led Labor into government at general elections in 2007.
Party power-brokers blamed Rudd for dragging down the government's popularity in recent opinion polls, and Gillard seized the leadership unopposed when she challenged him on June 24 in a party ballot.