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Goodbye, Gough

Australia’s 21st Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam has died at the age of 98. A renowned reformer and avid traveller, his three turbulent years in office made sweeping changes to the nation’s economic and cultural landscape.

Australia’s 21st Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam has died at the age of 98. A renowned reformer and avid traveller, his three turbulent years in office made sweeping changes to the nation’s economic and cultural landscape.

Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister from 1972 to 1975, has passed away today at the age of 98. He was the first Labor Prime Minister since 1949 and led the country through a period of massive social change before his ousting by governor-general Sir John Kerr.

Whitlam’s reforms included early recognition of Aboriginal land rights, normalisation of diplomatic ties with China, universal health care, universal access to university, no-fault divorce, and the end of conscription and withdrawal of forces from Vietnam.

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Whitlam, a renowned reformist. Image Source: SBS.

He was also, according to Whitlam’s family who addressed the media in a statement today, a loving and generous father.

“He was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians,” they said.

During his years in office, Whitlam’s sights were set to not only change the local but Australia’s position in the international community.

Under the helm of Whitlam, the government fostered Australian participation in international agreements and became an active player in international organisations. Through ensuring Australia was party to international agreements, the Whitlam government initiated Australia’s first federal legislation on human rights, the environment and heritage.

To achieve this, Whitlam and his wife Margaret travelled more widely than any of his predecessors.

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Pictured: Whitlam at the Great Wall of China. Image Source: Whitlam Institute.

In January 1973, in a bid to strengthen ties with Asia, Australia re-opened its embassy in Peking, resuming diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China after 24 years. Whitlam became the first Prime Minister to visit the People’s Republic of China.
That same year, with his wife in tow,  the late PM also set out on a visit to Indonesia and travelled through South-East Asia.

“Gough Whitlam was a giant of his time,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

“I think it is fair to say, regardless of one’s politics, the nation has lost a legend,” Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten said.

His key political opponent, Malcolm Fraser, took to Twitter to pay homage to Australia’s great reformer:

Feature Image Source: Whitlam Institute.

What will you remember Gough Whitlam for?