History and legacy
"Gough Whitlam has been a towering figure in the Australian Labor Party for longer than I can remember. When I first joined the ALP Gough was Leader of the Opposition. My first federal election campaign was 1972: I felt as if I spent every weekend of that year knocking on doors. I freely admit, it was quite abnormal behaviour for a teenager! But that campaign, which became part of Australia’s political history by sweeping away 23 years of conservative government and making ‘It’s Time’ part of our language, was one we all knew mattered. The excitement and enthusiasm of that election will never be forgotten by any of the countless party members and volunteers who knew that the surging tide of Labor support was not only about a change of government, but about changing the country – for the better.
And ladies and gentlemen, we were right.
The list of the Whitlam Government’s legislative reforms is familiar to all of us:
- improving the position of women and our indigenous population;
- introducing Medibank, the precursor to Medicare;
- needs-based funding for schools and free university education;
- introducing the Trade Practices Act;
- ending conscription;
- diplomatic and trade relations with the People’s Republic of China.
In Opposition, in Government, and in decades since, Gough has remained indefatigable, irrepressible, and unflagging.
For more than six decades in politics, Gough Whitlam has aimed at targets higher than personal success or vindication. His energy and enthusiasm combined with the continuing powerful relevance of his goals have made him a hero to many Australians – including to me – and an iconic figure in Australia’s political landscape…”
Excerpt of speech by Senator John Faulkner at Gough Whitlam’s 92nd Birthday celebrations, 11 July 2008.
At the 2010 Garma Festival Professor Janice Reid AM, Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney made a special presentation to the Yolngu people on behalf of the Hon Gough Whitlam AC QC. Her speech was about the history of the Yolgnu nation, her experiences living in Yolngu country in the 1970's, the importance of education, and the Whitlam Government's legacy.