Gough Whitlam

The Hon. (Edward) Gough Whitlam AC, QC was the 21st Australian Prime Minister, and was in office from 5 December 1972 to 11 November 1975. Born in Melbourne on 11 July 1916, he attended primary schools in Sydney, secondary schools in Canberra and the University of Sydney (BA, LLB). He was a Flight-Lieutenant navigator in the Pacific War. He was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1947.

In 1942 he married Margaret Dovey, the daughter of the late Justice Dovey of the NSW Supreme Court. They had three sons and one daughter.


Whitlam's government embarked on the extensive program of reform which he had enunciated as Leader of the Opposition. Amongst other reforms, it took over financial responsibility for tertiary education and abolished fees, the Schools Commission was established, welfare payments were introduced for single-parent families and homeless persons, the death penalty was abolished for Federal crimes and the voting age was reduced to eighteen years.

 

In 1975 the Government successfully repelled five challenges by the non-Labor State Governments in the High Court. The New South Wales and Queensland governments, however, changed the composition of the Senate by making non Labor appointments to fill two Labor vacancies. In October the Senate thrice postponed a vote on the Budget. On 11 November the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed the Whitlam Government. Whitlam's account of these controversial events is given in The Truth of the Matter (1979, 2nd edition 1983 and 3rd edition 2005) and in Abiding Interests (1997).

 

Established within the University of Western Sydney in 2000, the Whitlam Institute strives to commemorate the life and work of the Hon E.G. Whitlam AC QC and pursue the causes he championed through the Whitlam Institute Program ­- a program of public policy research, public engagement and education. The Institute bridges the historical legacy of Gough Whitlam's years in public life and the contemporary relevance of the Whitlam Program to public discourse and policy. Please visit the Whitlam Institute Program page for more information about the work the Whitlam Institute is doing.