Life On The Job

Famous or Historic People

EDWARD GOUGH WHITLAM AC QC [11 July 1916 - 21 October 2014] - 21st PRIME MINISTER of Australia

Gough Whitlam
(Source: ASPI)

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.

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. (Source: National Archives of Australia)


The Honourable Gough Whitlam was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia and served in office from 5th December 1972 to the 11th November in 1975.

Edward Gough Whitlam was born on the 11th of July 1916 in Kew, Melbourne Australia. Gough was the elder of two children and the son of a federal public servant who also served as a Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. Through his parents work dealing with human rights issues served as a powerful influence on him from a young age and was later represented through this own work.

Edward Gough Whitlam was referred to throughout most of his life by his middle name as Edward was also the name of his Grandfather. This name eventually stuck with him and was his primary means of addressing himself. (Source:

Early Life

Young Gough
(Source: Western Sydney University)

Edward Gough Whitlam was born on 11 July 1916 at the family home 'Ngara', 46 Rowland Street, Kew, a suburb of Melbourne, the elder of two children (his sister, Freda, was born four years after him), to Martha (née Maddocks) and Fred Whitlam. His father was a federal public servant who later served as Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, and Whitlam senior's involvement in human rights issues was a powerful influence on his son.

Since the boy's maternal grandfather was also named Edward, from early childhood he was called by his middle name, Gough, which in turn had come from his paternal grandfather who had been named after the British soldier Field-Marshal Hugh Gough, 1st Viscount Gough.
In 1918, Fred Whitlam was promoted to deputy Crown solicitor and transferred to Sydney. The family lived first in the North Shore suburb of Mosman and then in Turramurra. At age six, Gough began his education at Chatswood Church of England Girls' School (early primary schooling at a girls' school was not unusual for small boys at the time). After a year there, he attended Mowbray House School and Knox Grammar School in the suburbs of Sydney.

Fred Whitlam was promoted again in 1927, this time to Assistant Crown Solicitor. The position was located in the new national capital of Canberra, and the Whitlam family moved there.

Whitlam remains the only prime minister to have spent his formative years in Canberra. At the time, conditions remained primitive in what was dubbed "the bush capital" and "the land of the blowflies". (Source: Wikipedia)



During his early years Gough attended schools throughout Sydney in the northern suburbs. Gough first attended school at the age of six at Chatswood Church Of England Girls School as early primary schooling at an all-girls school was not unusual for young boys at the time. After attending Chatswood for a year he then moved to Knox Grammar school, an exclusive school in the suburbs of Sydney.

In 1927 Goughs’ family moved to the new Australian Capital, Canberra. Moving from Sydney to Canberra was a big change as this was the first time Gough had attended a government run School at Telopea Park. In 1932 Gough was transferred to Canberra Grammar School and received awards from the Governor General Sir Isaac Isaacs.

At the age of 18 Gough began his education at the University of Sydney. During his time there he took part in musicals and students films such as “Paulines” and “The broken Melody”. He received a Bachelor of Arts with Second Class honours in Classics. Once completing his Arts Degree Gough then enrolled in Law studies, but the ‘Boring lecture style’ did not suit him and he soon seemed unlikely to finish. (Source: Wikipedia)

Did You Know?

Fast facts: Gough Whitlam
Personal profile

Edward Gough WHITLAM

Born: 11 July 1916, Kew, Victoria

Education: Telopea Park High School and Canberra Grammar School; University of Sydney (1946)

Employment: RAAF navigator; barrister

Memberships: Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues and World Heritage Committee; International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); University of Sydney Senate; Academy of Athens; Hanoi Architectural Heritage Foundation

Marriage: 22 April 1942, Vaucluse, Sydney

Children: Antony (1944); Nicholas (1945); Stephen (1950); Catherine (1954)

Died: 21 October 2014

Honours: Queen’s Counsel (1962); Socialist International Plate of Honour (1976); Companion of the Order of Australia (1978)

with Family

(Source: Courier Mail)

Margaret Elaine WHITLAM (née DOVEY)

Born: 19 November 1919, Sydney

Memberships: Australian Labor Party (National Life Member 2007)

Died: 17 March 2012

Honours: Order of Australia (1983); D.Litt (UQ 1994, UNE 1995)

Political profile

Terms as PM:
5 December 1972 – 11 November 1975

Terms as MP:
House of Representatives: 17 February 1953 – 31 July 1978 (Werriwa); Deputy Leader of the Opposition (March 1960 – February 1967); Leader of the Opposition (February 1967 – December 1972; November 1975 – December 1977)


Thirteen portfolios: 5–19 December 1972
Foreign Affairs: December 1972 – November 1973
Environment: July 1975

Political memberships:

Australian Labor Party (NSW branch, 1945–, National Life Member 2007; federal parliamentary Labor Party leader, February 1967 – December 1977); Socialist International; UNESCO Executive Board

Australian Ambassador to UNESCO (1983–86); Chair, National Gallery of Australia Council (1987–90);
Chair, Australia–China Council (1986–91)

Quiz facts

only Prime Minister to grow up in the national capital

dubbed ‘the young brolga’ when he entered parliament, for his height (194cm) and imperious bearing

one of only two Prime Ministers whose lifetime spanned the lives of all 25 Prime Ministers in Australia’s first century
(John Gorton was the other)

was on active service in World War II as a RAAF navigator, despite suffering badly from airsickness

only Prime Minister dismissed from office

the Whitlam government introduced a record number of Bills, and a record number were enacted, though the Senate rejected 93 Bills, more than the total number rejected during the previous 71 years of the parliament

Whitlam is Australia's longest-lived Prime Minister

the Whitlam Institute was developed within the University of Western Sydney in 2000
(Source: National Archives of Australia)

Employment & Training:

After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Gough enlisted in the Sydney University Regiment of the Militia. In 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbour by Japanese forces Gough put his legal studies on hold and volunteered to join the Royal Australian Air Force, during this time he also met and married his wife Margaret Elaine Dovey.

He finally entered the RAAF on the 20th June 1942, where he served as a navigator and Bomb aimer. While in service of the RAAF he began his political activities distributing literature for the Australian Labor Party. During his time in service his desire to modernise the Australian Constitution.

Gough in RAAF
Serving in the RAAF
(Source: Herald Sun)

After his discharge from the RAAF on the 17th October 1945 he completed his studies and obtained his Bachelor of Law and was admitted into the Federal and New South Wales Bar in 1947.
(Source: ABC)

In the Post war period, Gough practiced law mainly dealing with tenant and landlord disputes and issues.

Gough then served as a Member of Parliament, although he did face some criticism of the Labor party due to his privileged background, but this was quickly overcome when he demonstrated his loyalty in parliament on multiple occasions.

Within the House of Representatives, Whitlam demonstrated his ability as a political speaker and debater, which quickly put the government on notice that he may be of concern in the future. (Source: National Archives of Australia)

 Experiences and Opportunities

Gough served as a Member of Parliament in the House of Representatives for the region of Werriwa from 1952 to 1960, during this time he raised many key issues with the government and started to climb the standings of the Labor Party.

All of his hard work over the 1950 to 60’s culminated in Gough being appointed as the deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party. This promotion demonstrated how all of his work had been paying off and his reputation within his own party was growing steadily.

Gough was slowly being represented as a potential Labor party leader. During this time the Labor party began growing uncertain in their policies which lead to them being defeated once again at the general election. (Source: ABC)

In 1967 Gough become the leader of the Australian Labor Party and set about to reform the party and its policies. Gough knew that just with support of the working class they wouldn’t be able to win an election and so they continued to expand their appeal to include middle class suburban families. This was not an easy task and it would take him years to achieve.

In 1972 Whitlam’s’ Labor party broke more than two decades of drought in Labor leadership by winning in general election. The slogan of ‘It’s Time’ was monumental in gaining favour for the Labor Party. (Source: Wikipedia)

During his relatively short time in government Gough set about reforming health care, education, pulling Australian forces out of Vietnam and improving international relations.

On Tuesday November 11th, 1975, the Governor- General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, dismissed Gough Whitlam as prime minister and appointed Malcolm Fraser as a ‘Caretaker’ Prime minister of Australia. The dismissal of Gough Whitlam grew over the many months prior for a wide range of reason including, lack of labor ministers to appoint to key positions, financial deficit due to overseas loans disasters and a vote of no confidence from the coalition. Whitlam’s solution to the problem was calling an immediate half senate election to try and rectify some of the internal issues of the Labor Party; however the Governor-General rejected this offer and instead decided to dismiss Gough. This was a massive political scandal that would set history in Australian Politics. (Source: ABC)

Gough Whitlam’s’ dismissal speech is one of the most famous in Australia’s history. Throughout his time in Parliament Gough Whitlam proved to be a force to be reckoned with, and during his time in power his government managed to made radical changes that are still appreciated in Australia to this day.

Gough Whitlam Dismissal

Edward Gough Whitlam passed away October 21st, 2014 at the age of 98. (Source:


Edward Gough Whitlam introduced the National Anthem ‘Advance Australia Fair’ as he did not like ‘God Save the Queen’. Whitlam was the first Prime Minister to attend a Socceroos game, but he only did it under the provision that ‘Advance Australia Fair’ be played before the game as the anthem. It officially become our national anthem on April 8, 1974. (Source: SMH)

The Whitlam government implemented a large number of new programs and policy changes:

  • the termination of military conscription

  • the creation of Medicare

  • Free university education

  • the implementation of legal aid

  • reopened the equal pay case

  • created major grants for the Arts

  • abolished the death penalty for federal crimes

  • established the National Sewerage Program

  • established the Order of Australia to replace the British honours system

  • Whitlam gave the Gurindji people of the Northern Territory title deeds to part of their traditional lands, beginning the process of Aboriginal land reform

  • The government granted independence to Papua New Guinea. (Source: Wikipedia)

Gough Whitlam with Vincent Lingiari
Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of Vincent Lingiari, symbolically handing the Wave Hill station in the back to the Gurindji people in 1975
(Source: ABC News)

YouTube: Gough Whitlam | His Time as Prime Minister


YouTube: Whitlam Dismissal: 11 November 1975 ABC TV


YouTube: Gough Whitlam's dismissal, 40 years on




ACT Suburb named Whitlam

Whitlam Suburb



ABC News 3 October 2014

ABC News

Sydney Morning Herald 21 October 2014


National Archives of Australia [NAA]


Obituaries Australia

Whitlam Institute - Western Sydney University

Whitlam Institute
Whitlam Dismissal


National Museum Australia


ABC Party Room: 25 February 2020

Australian War Memorial


Museum of Australian Democracy
Election Speeches 1972






Indoor plumbing

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

NumeracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy


1. Gough was elected to parliament by the people of Western Sydney because he promised indoor plumbing! 'It was said of Caesar Augustus that he found Rome brick and left it marble. It will be said of Gough Whitlam that he found the outer suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane unsewered and left them fully flushed.' Neville Wran.

As a group of 4 - 5 students, read this article from News 22 October 2014. Reading

News 22102014


Discuss as a group what you learnt from this article.

Have you ever heard of outside toilets [not attached to the house or inside the house]?

What do you think it would be like to have only one outside toilet?

2. Conduct a quick survey of the class to see how many toilets are in each household. How many toilets are there in total? Work out the average number of toilets per person in each family.

3. Connect 4: Here is a list of Australian slang words to describe a toilet:

  A B C D
1 The Dunny the Loo Thunderbox Crapper
2 Lavatory Restroom Throne room Urinal
3 Shithouse Bog Outhouse WC
4 Privy Facilities The Porcelain God Convenience


Using this table, go across a row, or down a column, or, go diagonally to create as many words as possible using 4 letters, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 letters.

Have a competition amongst your group and remember to check up any words that don't appear "correct" in a dictionary.


CHOICE of Activity: Either 4 or 5.

4. Redback on the toilet seat is a famous Australian song. Listen to the song.

YouTube: Slim Newton - Redback on the Toilet Seat


As a group, you are to create another comic or humorous song (no rudeness) about a toilet; or, sewage; or, where sewage goes using the music from this song by Slim Newton.

As a group, create one verse each and cooperate to create the refrain or chorus and most importantly the title.
Look at the following
website The Parts of a Song to get an idea.

As a group, sing your new song and record it for the class.

5. Story

As a group of 5 students, you are going to write a cooperative story about an experience on a toilet or the outside dunny. Your Teacher will decide which one it is to be.

You are to provide no explicit details in your story - it all has to be inference.

Everyone writes an Introduction. Folds paper so next person can’t see what was written previously and passes it on to the person on the right. This person writes the first part of the body of the story. Folds over their part and passes to the person on the right. This person writes the next part of the body of the story – one paragraph. Folds over their part and passes to the person on the right. This person writes the next part of the body of the story – one paragraph.

The last person writes the conclusion.

After all has been written – the total story is read out to the class. It is usually hilarious!

Whitlam changed Australia's view of itself: Can you follow in his footsteps?

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

IndigenousAustralian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures


A large portion of Gough Whitlam’s success came from his ability to create passionate and convincing speeches, now it is your turn to follow in his footsteps.

1. For this activity you will need to select an issue that you are passionate about, some ideas [suggestions only - you could have some ideas yourself] could be:

- Schools should have at least half the curriculum online so you can do things at your own pace
- Schools should do at least 1 hour of sport per day
- No homework should be given to students
- All Australian Citizens should do a mandatory 5 months volunteer work after leaving school
- All Australian Citizens should be given an Universal Basic Income (UBI)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should be recognised in the Australian Constitution

Ensuring that you select a topic you have an interest in is key to making your speech seem passionate and well thought out.

2. Use all of your background knowledge to try and develop the strongest argument possible this may include doing background research on the internet and taking surveys from your peers to gauge their interest.

3. You can also use the following links to look at some famous speeches in History to see if you can identify some of the key features that make a good speech, great. Note down all of the features of the features of this particular speeches and try to identify which strategies you chould use in your own presentation.  

You can also look at his dismissal speech which is widely considered to be one of the most monumental speeches in Australian History at the bottom of this page.

Links to key historical Australian speeches

In Full: Noel Pearson remembers Gough Whitlam


Paul Keating's Redfern Address  


Julia Gillard misogyny speech voted most unforgettable Australian TV moment: watch in full



Famous International Speeches  - Martin Luther King (I Have a dream)  Barrack Obama (Victory Speech) - Malala Yousafzai Nobel Peace Prize Speech - Winston Churchill ( D-Day We will fight on the Beaches)

Once you have researched your topic, create a mindmap of possible arguments that you could use. Use this to rank them from the strongest argument to the weakest.

Once you have selected that you can begin writing your speech. Make sure you only talk about one point per paragraph so the people listening to get confused.

Once you have completed your speech and you are ready to present, you will need to practice in front of a mirror to ensure that you are comfortable with what you are saying and how you will present it. It would be a good idea to ask your friends or family for some pointers on how your presentation went and what you may like to improve.

Once you have finished presenting your speech you may like to display your arguments on a poster or a Weebly webpage so others can look back on your work in the future.




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