Vale Gough Whitlam: 1916 – 2014

The Home Journal does not really do politics, but just for this moment it is time to reflect on the legacy of Gough Whitlam.

Gough Whitlam was the Labour Prime Minister from 1972 to 1975. Infamously sacked by Governor General Sir John Kerr, Whitlam strove to the office to with a clear agenda to change the destiny and trajectory of Australia. It was a bold ambition that for many Australians has paid handsome dividends.

Whitlams wit, intellect and engagement was deep and comprehensive and always tempered and balanced by his wife Margaret. Gough did much for how we live today, much for us in our homes. Gough, who lived in his western Sydney Electorates, was appalled by the inequity of inner and out urban areas of Australia with a lack of services, utilities and transportation. Gough embarked on agenda of providing sewerage (yes thats right) to a raft of not so inner city suburbs, a raft of highways, roads and hospitals in our capital cities. Gough provided and legislated for free child care, he engaged in cultural diversity and its promotion, he was a powerful voice for female equality, with many of his reforms greatly improving the way we live.

Gough introduced “no fault divorces” through the Family Law Act 1975, broke the ground for the National Family Court, and he removed sales tax for contraceptives! That would have been more than many of our recent Prime Ministers, but Gough continued to reform. He created Medicare and free health care for all, and at the same time he created free tertiary eduction. These reforms gave ambition to the suburbs, they unlocked the doors for women… empowering a generation.

These are deep and lasting legacies that no other leader has given us, and you can feel Margaret’s hand and strong voice in many of these reforms. The Whitlam’s transformed the suburbs, unlocked diversity and breed culture and life back into a homogenous inward looking Australia. Gough was a great man, a man of monumental spirit and sense of destiny, he enacted the Racial Discrimination Act and for the first time recognised the land rights of Indigenous Australians. Gough lead and was miles ahead of his time. He scuppered plans to allow drilling for oil on the Great Barrier Reef and introduced environmental protection legislation, establishing the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1974.

Margaret and Gough were both culturally engaged and loved the arts and literature. Gough doubled funding to the arts in a year and created the Australia Council for the Arts. Gough pushed forward with the creation of the National Gallery in Canberra with the first purchases of art, including Jackson Pollock’s masterpiece Blue Poles.

The list of his achievements is staggering, but if you can reflect at home for just a moment think of the education you may have, the suburb with hospitals and roads, or about taking the kids down to the doctor which is still free. Perhaps look around and see the cultural diversity thats surrounds you and the great proliferation of design, art and culture. Gough enriched our lives with his enormous legacy and force of personality and we are all so much richer for his contribution.

We thank him for making so much possible, a giant of our time. Vale Gough Whitlam.

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