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Gough Whitlam’s Legacy

Whitlam is named after former Prime Minister, the Honourable Gough Whitlam AC QC, who was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia.

Edward Gough Whitlam (commonly known by his middle name) was born in Melbourne on 11 July 1916.

His family moved to Sydney in 1918 and then to Canberra in 1928, where he found his true home. He attended Telopea Park School and then Canberra Grammar. Following his completion of year 12, Gough went on to study Arts and Law at the University of Sydney.

Gough served as Prime Minister from 5 December 1972 to 11 November 1975, before being controversially dismissed from office by the Govenor-General.

Among a significant amount of legislation passed, Gough remains known for his passion for the arts with his government providing the sector unprecedented funding and support.

Key arts achievements include:

  • Establishing the National Gallery of Australia and the purchase of American abstract impressionist painter Jackson Pollok’s Blue Poles.
  • Making the Australia Council for the Arts the government’s independent arts funding body. His government also dramatically increased its budget to distribute grants to  visual artists, writers, musicians and performers.
  • Support and stimulation of Australia’s film and television industries. This included forming the Australian Film Commission to fund feature film, documentaries, television and short film projects.
  • Introducing minimum Australian music content for commercial radio, including FM radio and multicultural community stations. He also established 2JJ (today known as Triple J) specifically to support Australian music among younger audiences.

Gough Whitlam has also left a legacy of promoting reconciliation with Indigenous Australians. He made remarkable headway in acknowledging Aboriginal Australians' right to Australian land and advocated for their land rights. He also made reforms to abolish discriminatory practices which overtly limited Indigenous freedoms and opportunities.

Gough Whitlam

Vincent Lingiari and Gough Whitlam. © Commonwealth of Australia

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