Whitlam Institute

Studying Whitlam

Whitlam Government


The Whitlam Government brought about a vast range of reforms in the 1071 days it held office between December 5, 1972 and November 11, 1975.

In its first year alone, it passed 203 bills - more legislation than any other federal government had passed in a single year. Gough Whitlam reformed not only Australia's laws and institutions, but the way this country sees itself. Explore some of the achievements and reforms enacted by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and the government he led here.



The Whitlam Government saw education as the fundamental ingredient for equity and opportunity in society, and it was a core area of reform activity for the Whitlam Government.


Gough Whitlam’s 1972 election campaign speech was clear on the need to accord Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the rights, justice and opportunities that had been denied to them for so long. 


At a time of immense social change, Gough Whitlam's government acted to remove discrimination and injustice against women and to improve the basis of equality upon which women could participate in society.                                                                        


With the election of the Whitlam Government the nation began to abandon the relics of colonialism, and curtail the hostile and suspicious stance that it had retained toward its own region. 


The guiding tenets of Gough Whitlam's political vision and political practice were liberty, equality, and fraternity, and there is a natural progression to the Whitlam Government's reform program having a strong focus on human rights. 


The introduction of a universal healthcare system – Medibank was one of the reforms that defined the government of Gough Whitlam and its underlying philosophy.


Gough Whitlam's Australian defence policy reflected the need for an independent foreign policy.



The denunciation of Australia's history of racial prejudice was central to the Whitlam Program.

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The Whitlam Government provided unprecedented support to Australia’s arts sector, helping a generation of creative Australians to give voice to a new independent, confident and distinctively Australian cultural identity.


Gough Whitlam's government enacted a wide range of reforms that expanded the democratic rights and freedoms enjoyed by Australian citizens. 

From the 1972 'It's Time' campaign speech, when Gough Whitlam declared he would make the Great Barrier Reef a national park, the Whitlam Government acted to safeguard Australia’s natural heritage. 


The changes made to Australia’s national symbols reflected the Whitlam Government’s vision of a confident, independent Australia.


The Whitlam Government’s handling of the economy precipitated public controversy whilst it was in office, and it continues to be the subject of significant historical debate.


Gough Whitlam's work to identify, protect and conserve sites significant to Australia’s social history has delivered immeasurable benefit for future generations.

Cities & Suburbs

Gough Whitlam said that a national government which cuts itself off from responsibility for the nation's cities is cutting itself off from the nation's real life.


The achievements of the Whitlam Government were not the work of one man alone, but of a team of ministers. 32 men served in the government of Gough Whitlam between 1972 and 1975.