Gough Whitlam Dies At 98: Readers Remember


Australians woke this morning to the news that the nation’s 21st Prime Minister Gough Whitlam died overnight.

In a statement issued by Mr Whitlam described him as, "a loving and generous father, he was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also issued a statement.

"On behalf of the Australian people, I extend my condolences to the Whitlam family on their loss,” he said, calling Whitlam a “giant of his time”.

Among other things, Whitlam will be remembered for his introduction of no-fault divorce, the Racial Discrimination Act, the drafting of Land Rights legislation, the introduction of Australia’s medical health insurance scheme, the final withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam, the establishment of diplomatic relations with China and the abolition of university fees.

The tumult of the Whitlam dismissal in 1975 remains one of the most dramatic – and near catastrophic – incidents in Australian political history. The friendship of Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser would later become a fascinating footnote to an era of great change in Australia.

With a much loved and much despised Prime Minister gone, we want to know your thoughts.

What is the Whitlam legacy? What were his biggest reforms? Which was his greatest failure?

Leave your memories in the comments below or on social media and we’ll copy the best ones into this article as New Matilda readers remember Gough.

Our first response is from Isabel McIntosh, who remembers a defining image in Australia's Land Rights history

New Matilda Senior Journalist Amy McQuire has just filed a piece on Whitlam and land rights, here's an exert:

Above all, Aboriginal people remember the failure of governments to deliver national land rights. Land has spiritual, economic and social significance to Aboriginal nations, and the absence of true land justice has compounded the deep disadvantage felt in Aboriginal communities.

Out of our recent Prime Ministers, there is only one who will be remembered favourably in regards to land rights. That man passed away today at age 98. His name was Gough Whitlam.

On our facebook page, readers are sharing their personal stories

For Gayle, Whitlam's legacy was the dream of university study

We're not sure if he is a New Matilda reader, but former PM Malcolm Fraser got poetic earlier this morning

One from the comment section, Deb Armstrong hits on a big theme of the Whitlam years – higher education. The Vincent Lingiari image also on the minds of many readers

I owe my university education to Gough. My favourite moment though will always be standing with another giant, Vincent Lingiari

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