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Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam became Australia’s 21st Prime Minister on 5 December 1972. His Labor government, the first after more than two decades, set out to change Australia through a wide-ranging reform program. Whitlam’s term abruptly ended when his government was dismissed by the Governor-General on 11 November 1975.

Gough Whitlam at the United Nations, 1974

Gough Whitlam at the United Nations, November 1974. Under Whitlam’s lead, participation in international agreements transformed Australian law and politics.

NAA: A8746, KN12/11/74/28

The public lives of Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret extend over half a century. After serving in the Royal Australian Air Force, Whitlam joined the Australian Labor Party in 1945. He became the Member for Werriwa in Sydney’s south in 1952, retaining the seat in 11 more federal elections over the next 25 years.

Whitlam led the reform of the Labor Party platform during the long years in Opposition. As Prime Minister he immediately set about implementing a reform program that included strengthening Australia’s status by making Queen Elizabeth II Queen of Australia. His government drew on international agreements to develop programs on human rights, the environment and conservation.

Margaret Whitlam played an important role as a political and prime ministerial wife. An outspoken public speaker, broadcaster and columnist, she accompanied Gough Whitlam on his countless overseas travels. As a qualified social worker, she was particularly interested in social conditions. Their public lives continued after they left The Lodge in 1975. Mrs Whitlam died in March 2012.

The Whitlams in the gardens of The Lodge, 1973

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and Margaret Whitlam in the gardens of The Lodge, September 1973.

NAA: A8746, KN24/9/73/7

Book cover

The Whitlam Years brings together commentaries on the Cabinet documents of the 1972–75 Whitlam governments.

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