Profile: Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard, a Welsh-born lawyer, became Australia's first female prime minister in June 2010.
Deputy to then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, she toppled her one-time ally in a surprise leadership challenge as his poll figures fell.
She went on to lead the Labor party into a general election, but public unease over Labor infighting left her struggling, and the poll delivered Australia's first hung parliament in decades.
Mr Rudd launched a challenge to retake the top job in February 2012 but, despite figures showing Mr Rudd was the voters' choice, Ms Gillard won the party ballot comfortably.
However, Mr Rudd's presence continued to dog her term as prime minister and, six months before a general election, Ms Gillard was forced to call another leadership ballot in March 2013.Former Rudd ally
Born in the Welsh port town of Barry in 1961, Ms Gillard migrated to Australia with her parents when she was four.
An outstanding student in her hometown Adelaide, she became president of the Australian Union of Students at Melbourne University in 1983.
She worked as a lawyer for a firm specialising in class actions and industrial relations and became partner at Slater and Gordon in 1990.
End Quote Julia Gillard Australian prime minister
I love this country, and I was not going to sit idly by and watch an incoming opposition cut education, cut health and smash rights at work”
Moving into politics, she became the chief of staff to Victoria state opposition leader, John Brumby, and then won a seat in parliament in 1998. She was also known for promoting the role of women in politics.
Kevin Rudd entered parliament at the same time as Ms Gillard and they formed an alliance in 2006.
While in the Rudd government she held several portfolios, including minister for employment and workplace relations, minister for education, and minister for social inclusion - as well as the deputy prime minister post.
Ms Gillard has been described as a good negotiator and a consensus politician - a sharp contrast with Mr Rudd, who was criticised by some for his top-down style of leadership.
Jacqueline Kent, who wrote a biography of Ms Gillard, described her as determined.
"She's very tough because she's persistent, she's focused, and she's very bright," she said. "And she's also got very good Labor - traditional Labor - social values."
Ms Gillard had worked hard to succeed in a male-dominated area, she added.
"The Labor Party is a very sort of blokey culture. But she has managed to get there by sheer ability and persistence. It's taken her a while, but she's done it."'Sit idly by'
Mr Rudd, who won the 2007 election by a landslide, saw his popularity drop in 2010. He stepped down tearfully after Ms Gillard calmly announced that she was challenging him for the party leadership.
She said she had acted because his government was losing its way.
"I love this country, and I was not going to sit idly by and watch an incoming opposition cut education, cut health and smash rights at work," she said.
She then led the party into a general election which saw Australia's first hung parliament in decades.
A series of missteps on issues such as asylum and tax caused her support to plummet. Her campaign was also hit by damaging internal leaks, one of which appeared to target her childless status by portraying her as opposed to paid parental leave.
She formed a minority government which relies on independents for a wafer-thin majority.
But Ms Gillard stumbled almost immediately on asylum, announcing the creation of a processing centre on East Timor that it later transpired did not have the full support of that country's government.
She has also struggled to distance herself from public unease caused by the manner of Mr Rudd's removal, and has been hit by opposition allegations of in-fighting levelled against her party.
She has seen her ratings slip against Mr Abbott, who said the ''instability'' was ''damaging Australia'' and the government is showing itself ''unworthy to continue in office''.
Yet it was Mr Abbott who prompted the fiery speech from Ms Gillard lambasting him as a misogynist in October 2012 that drew international attention - hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube within a week.
Ms Gillard set a poll date of 14 September for the next general election, announcing the decision eight months in advance.
She said the announcement was "not to start the nation's longest election campaign" but to give "shape and order" to the year.
However, opinion polls show that Mr Rudd is far more popular with the public than Ms Gillard, who looks set to lose the forthcoming election to the Liberal Party's Tony Abbott.
A senior Labor party MP called on Ms Gillard to resolve leadership issue in March 2013, prompting the ballot.