PM Julia Gillard said she and her family are in “shock” after her father passed away, and she will be returning to Adelaide from the APEC summit.
The Australian Prime Minister’s sad news was announced to delegates at an afternoon session by the summit host, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a statement today, Ms Gillard said:
“My father, John Gillard, passed away this morning in Adelaide.
“He has battled illness in recent years but his death is a shock for me and my family.
“Dad lived a long and full life. He was brought up in a coal mining village and left school at 14, but transcended these humble beginnings to become a man with a love of ideas, political debate and poetry.
“Migrating to Australia in 1966, he studied for a new life in a new land and became a psychiatric nurse. For more than two decades, he showed his capacity for love and care to those most in need of help.
“My father was my inspiration. He taught me that nothing comes without hard work and demonstrated to me what hard work meant as a shift worker with two jobs. He taught me to be passionate about fairness. He taught me to believe in Labor and in trade unionism.
John Gillard was Julia’s political inspiration
“But above all, he taught me to love learning and to understand its power to change lives. He always regretted his family background meant he had not proceeded on to higher education as a young man. He was determined that I had the opportunities he was denied.
“I will miss him for the rest of my life.
“I plan to travel home to Adelaide as soon as possible to grieve with my family. I ask that my family’s privacy be respected at this time.
“Minister Emerson will take my place in the remaining APEC forums today and tomorrow.”
Ms Gillard had enjoyed a productive morning meeting hosting a business breakfast with travelling media and holding talks with leaders from both Malaysia and PNG to discuss and further arrangements for asylum seeker detention. She also addressed an education forum.
PM seals PNG asylum seeker agreement
She was expected to have further bilateral discussions with leaders from other APEC countries and to push for green trade initiatives at tomorrow’s leaders’ summit.
Mr Gillard had been sick for some time and had undergone serious surgery earlier this year but it is understood his death was unexpected. He was 83 when he passed away.
Ms Gillard did not appear at the first session of the APEC summit after President Putin announced her father had passed away to other delegates.
The PM will depart Vladivostok for Adelaide at the earliest available opportunity which is first thing tomorrow morning.
Tonight, Acting prime minister Wayne Swan said: “Anyone who saw Julia and her dad together recognised a very special, very close and very treasured father-daughter relationship and would be terribly saddened to hear of his passing.
“I know every member of the Government is thinking of Julia, her mum and sister on hearing this sad news.”
Mr Swan is expected to continue as acting prime minister when parliament resumes on Monday, while Ms Gillard grieves with her family.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also extended his sincere sympathies to the Gillard family.
“The thoughts of all Australians will be with the Prime Minister, Mrs Moira Gillard and their family at this difficult time,” he said.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said he was saddened by the news.
“Upon his daughter’s elevation to the prime ministership, Australians came to know a gentleman who was kind, generous and proud of his daughter,” Mr Weatherill said.
“He was obviously the inspiration behind her sense of justice for working people.”
Governor-General Quentin Bryce, has sent Ms Gillard’s family a private message.
Liberal MPs Andrew Laming, Andrew Southcott and Natasha Griggs expressed their condolences on Twitter.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said she was saddened to hear about the death.
“I was very saddened today to hear that the Prime Minister’s father has died,” she said in a statement.
“I extend to her my deepest sympathy and condolences and whatever support I can provide at this difficult time.”
Mr Gillard gained national prominence on the day his daughter became Prime Minister.
National media converged on his Adelaide home for the moment she was endorsed by Caucus.
In a previous interview, Mr Gillard, 82, spoke of watching his daughter in full flight as Australia’s Prime Minister.
John Gillard defends his daughter Julia.
“I was amazed. I still think of Julia as my little girl – I have to make that jump though, now she’s in the highest office in the land,” Mr Gillard said.
“I will always extend a loving hand to my loving daughter.”
He spoke to his daughter every weekend.
Ms Gillard was four years old when her parents John and Moira brought her over from Wales in 1966 to start a new life in South Australia.
While she did not grow up in an overtly political household, it was always Labor supporting.
Mr Gillard was a shift-working psychiatric nurse who enjoyed listening to Parliament on the radio, and Julia has credited her father for her early interest in politics, current affairs and education.
“They are good people,” Ms Gillard told SA Weekend in an interview in 2010. “They have good values about helping others, they are generous people, they are compassionate people.
“Both of them worked very hard, Dad in particular worked tremendously hard to ensure the financial security of our family.”
Mr Gillard is survived by his wife Moira and daughters Alison and Julia.
Ms Gillard only arrived in Russia on Friday night for the annual meeting of 21 regional leaders.
Many have taken to social media to express their condolences after hearing the news of Mr Gillard’s death.