Whitlam Prime Ministerial Collection
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The Whitlam Prime Ministerial Collection contains more than 35,000 wonderful objects that capture the essence of Gough Whitlam’s personality, his government, his public life, and his times. The collection is constantly growing as we attract new treasures that help us continually better understand Australia’s greatest reforming Prime Minister.
Our thanks to Jim Spigelman who recently sat down with Chair of the Whitlam Institute John Faulkner to donate a number of papers from his time as Senior Advisor and Principal Private Secretary to Gough.
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The Whitlam Prime Ministerial Collection has been largely digitised - which means you can search for everything from family photographs to original speeches with Gough’s notes in the margin.
The collection is housed at the Whitlam Institute and available for research by appointment.
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Edward Gough Whitlam married Margaret Elaine Dovey in April, 1942, and this is their wedding portrait from that day. The ceremony took place at St Michael's Church in Vaucluse. They were married for almost 70 years until Margaret's death in March, 2012.
One of the most significant documents in Australian political history, this is the original letter given to Gough Whitlam by Governor General Sir John Kerr terminating his commission as Prime Minister, and dismissing his government from office. Whitlam had called on the Governor General at 1pm on November 11, 1975. He intended to advise him to call a half-Senate election to break the deadlock that was blocking the passage of his budget. This letter was lying face down on Kerr's desk when Whitlam walked into his office. Before Whitlam could advise the Governor General to call the election, he was handed this now famous letter. 'We shall all have to live with this', Kerr said to Whitlam. 'You certainly will', he replied.
These distinctive cufflinks were given to Gough Whitlam as a momento of the celebrations to mark Australia's granting of independence to Papua New Guinea. Whitlam had long been an advocate for greater autonomy for Papua New Guinea, and once elected, his government moved speedily to bring about the country's independence. A range of powers were handed over throughout 1973, to the extent that by year's end, the country was largely self-governing. The independence ceremony in September 1975 was the culmination of these efforts. The cufflinks depict the Papua New Guinean flag, whose design consists of a bird of paradise, and like Australian flag, the Southern Cross.
This is the original copy of perhaps the most important speech of Gough Whitlam's political career - his 1972 election policy speech. This speech laid out the guiding principles of the Whitlam Government and detailed the policy program it intended to enact. The speech contained around 200 specific promises. Whitlam regarded this speech as the contract between his government and the Australian people, and referred to it often in retrospect. Its now famous opening line - 'Men and Women of Australia' was appropriated from the oratory of wartime Labor Prime Minister John Curtin. This copy of the speech shows the final amendments that were made before Whitlam delivered the speech.
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'It's Time' was the slogan adopted by the Labor Party throughout the 1972 election campaign. Intended to seize the public mood for change and renewal after 23 years of conservative government, the campaign was groundbreaking in its style. The Gough Whitlam Prime Ministerial Collection contains numerous objects of ephemera associated with the iconic 'It's Time' campaign, from badges such as this to posters, bumper stickers and paper banners. The collection also contains a copy of the famous 'It's Time' television commercial, sung by Alison McCallum and featuring prominent Australians such as Molly Meldrum, Bert Newton, Jack Thompson and Noeline Brown. This video is available online, through our collection.
Gough Whitlam's school report cards from his time at Mowbray House School and Knox Grammar, starting from when he was about seven years old. They detail his academic performance from that time, revealing a particular proficiency in English and Mathematics. They contain fascinating observations of Whitlam as a boy. In 1925, Whitlam's Form Master recorded that he took 'proper pride in being neat & tidy in all written work' but that he was inclined to be 'excitable & boisterous in manner at times, but is now exercising more control'. Later that year, his headmaster noted 'He has a facile mind: there is a danger that he does things too easily. Let him see that he always feels the weight on his shoulders'.
Gough Whitlam's first ALP membership card, issued on August 8, 1945. It's a revealing document - the space where Whitlam's union affiliation should have been listed is blank. Whitlam was an atypical Labor leader in that he came to the party with few union connections. The card records his address in Elizabeth Bay and his occupation as 'Student at law'.
Despite the romantic name by which this document has become known, it is not a love letter. This hand-written letter from Gough Whitlam to his wife Margaret, from the RAAF station on which he was serving during World War Two, expresses his passionate interest and opinions on the Australian constitution. During 1944, a referendum took place to determine whether the constitution should be altered to grant the Federal Government the power to legislate in a broader range of areas. Whitlam passionately supported the reform proposal, and actively campaigned for it amongst his RAAF squadron. Whitlam nominated his involvement in the 'Yes' campaign during the 1944 Referendum as one of the defining and most formative episodes in the shaping of his political outlook. The failure of the 'Yes' campaign was one of the key events behind Whitlam's decision to enter public life. Although the 'Yes' vote fell short of a nation-wide majority, one of its best tallies was recorded in Whitlam's Squadron 13.
The final moon landing of the Apollo program took place during the first week of the Whitlam Government. In recognition of Australia's contribution to the success of the US space program, Whitlam was given a framed Australian flag that had been flown to the moon aboard Apollo 17 between December 7 and 19, 1972. The object has been signed by all of the Apollo 17 astronauts.
The original proposal from the advertising agency Hansen-Rubensohn-McCann-Erickson. There were only ten copies of the proposal in existence at the time.
The planning and focus for the 'It's Time' campaign heralded a new era in Australian political election campaigns, utilising enhanced communication technologies and targeted strategies. The strategies included radio and television exposure over months bringing the voice and face of Gough Whitlam into Australian households, striking banners and stickers and a modern slogan and jingle involving many singer and television personalities of the early 70's. This object was given to the collection by Graham Freudenberg.The marketing ideas were so new to politics that the document had to explain what a 'focus group' was.