Julia Gillard has met with representatives from Australian Marriage Equality in an official capacity to hear views on gay marriage, a first for an Australian Prime Minister.

Having stated in the past that marriage is an institution for men and women only, Gillard invited the advocates to hear their views and to answer questions about her stated opposition to the issue.

A recent poll by the group found three quarters of Australians believe gay marriage will soon be a reality.

Attending the meeting were former Australian Medical Association President, Kerryn Phelps and her wife, Jackie Stricker-Phelps; Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) national spokesperson, Shelley Argent; Australian Marriage Equality (AME) campaign director, Rodney Croome; and same-sex mental health specialist, Paul Martin.

Professor Phelps and Mrs Stricker-Phelps discussed with the Prime Minister their difficulties in having an overseas marriage which is not recognised in Australia, before giving her letters written by their children about the need for equality.

Professor Phelps said: “I am very pleased we have opened a dialogue with the Prime Minister and hope to continue to talk to her about this issue”.

Mr Croome emphasised the importance of marriage equality as a way of promoting inclusion and participation in family life and told the Prime Minister she could make Australian a more just and equitable nation.

Mr Martin spoke to the Prime Minister about the link between mental health, internalised homophobia and the inability to marry.

He said: “I felt Ms Gillard listened respectfully and seemed to take on board what I was saying. She accepted information about marriage equality and mental health from a recent statement by the American Psychological Association.”

Mrs Argent said the meeting was a great opportunity to let Ms Gillard know the importance parents put on the issue of marriage equality for their sons and daughters.

“We gave her another perspective on an issue that not only affects couples but their families and friends.”

“The meeting gave me hope that if the National Conference is positive on this issue she won’t stand in the way of marriage equality being presented to Parliament.”

Gillard has been in power since June 2010.

Her administration has come under criticism recently for not allowing gay Australians leave to marry abroad.