Gough Whitlam Biography

Gough Whitlam was a former Australian Prime Minister who was known for implanting numerous ground breaking and progressive policies during his reign. To know more about his childhood, career, profile and timeline read on

Gough Whitlam
Quick Facts

Birthday: July 11, 1916

Nationality: Australian

Famous: Prime Ministers Political Leaders

Died At Age: 98

Sun Sign: Cancer

Also Known As: Edward Gough Whitlam

Born in: Kew Vic

Famous as: Former Prime Minister of Australia

political ideology: Political party - Australian Labor Party


Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Whitlam

children: Catherine Whitlam, Nicholas Whitlam, Stephen Whitlam, Tony Whitlam

Died on: October 21, 2014

More Facts

education: University of Sydney, Canberra Grammar School, Mowbray House School

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Gough Whitlam was Australia’s Prime Minister and a visionary who had ideas much ahead of his time. This academic genius was able to set Australia’s future agenda for social policy, national identity, and foreign relations in his short three year reign. During his time he made some serious and controversial decisions such as the removal of troops from Vietnam, the release of all draft resisters, and the recognition of Communist China. His parliament passed a record breaking amount of progressive and groundbreaking Bills. He tackled globally controversial issues like health insurance, wildlife conservation, racial discrimination, and divorce. He was greatly interested in international matters and traveled more often than any previous Prime Minister. It would seem that this man would be the perfect leader except his achievements were highly shadowed by his lack of economic and political skill. When it came to financial matters his clumsy and unsure nature created the budget mess which eventually led to his dismissal. When the opposition refused to pass the budget the government’s monetary supply was halted and Whitlam was effectively removed from office. After a few years of political defeat he decided to retire. He wrote and took tours around Europe for the remainder of his life. To know more about his life and works read on.

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Gough Whitlam
Childhood & Early Life
  • He was born on July 11, 1916 in Kew, Melbourne. He was the oldest of two children and the son of Frederick Whitlam, who worked at the tax office for the ‘Commonwealth Public Service’. His father’s work took him from Melbourne to Sydney and Canberra during his young years.
  • He spent his early educational career in the schools ‘Mowbray House’, ‘Knox Grammar School’, ‘Telopea Park High School’, and Canberra Boys' Grammar School. While in high school he edited the school magazines, the ‘Telopea’, and ‘The Canberran’.
  • In 1935 he began studying at the ‘University of Sydney’ where he received his arts degree and law degree. He edited the college journal ‘The Pauline,’ and the magazine ‘Hermes.’
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  • ’Pearl Harbor’ incident during the World War inspired him to register with the ‘Royal Australian Air Force’. He was not called right away but in June of 1942 he was called to service. He was a navigator and served to protect certain convoys in northern Australia for much of the war.
  • On August 8, 1945 he decided to join the ‘Labor Party’. He joined the Darlinghurst branch and wrapped up his military service a few months later.
  • In 1947 he was admitted to the New South Wales and federal courts after completing his law degree. For the next few years he campaigned for positions within the local government and became a more well-known local figure.
  • In late November of 1952 he was elected to the House of Representatives. He joined the ‘American Labor Party’ minority and began gaining popularity within the group.
  • In 1960 he became deputy leader of the ‘American Labor Party’ by election. His modern outlook, coupled with the fact that he was significantly younger than other party leaders, appealed more to the youth of the nation.
  • On December 5, 1972 he became the first Prime Minister hailing from Labor Party. His program was immediately put in place. During his reign the amount of Bills that were initiated and enacted was record breaking.
  • In 1975 Whitlam’s parliament was in a terrible political deadlock and was having difficulty agreeing upon and passing the budget. On November 11 Governor John Kerr made a move which effectively dismissed him as Prime Minister.
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  • In the 1977 election he lost and decided to quit the party leadership. A year later he resigned from parliament.
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Major Works
  • In January of 1973 he recognized Communist China and resumed diplomatic relations with the country which had been halted for over 24 years. In October he became the first Prime Minister to visit the People’s Republic of China.
  • In 1975, the revolutionary ‘Family Law Act’ was enacted. It established the very first no fault divorce law in the world. The first national Family Court was created.
  • In 1979, he published ‘The Truth of the Matter.’ The book explains the events which led to his dismissal as Prime Minister.
  • He was appointed as Australian Ambassador to UNESCO, in 1983. He took part in the ‘Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues’ and the ‘World Heritage Committee’.
Awards & Achievements
  • In 1962 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel. This Counsel is filled with the top ranking lawyers. After his extraordinary academic performance it was unsurprising he was able to achieve so much in his law career.
  • In 1976 he was bestowed the honor of ‘Socialist International Plate of Honour’. He was given this honor for all of the progressive and groundbreaking Bills he was able to pass during his time as Prime Minister.
  • In 1978 he was awarded the ‘Companion of the Order of Australia’. This award was given for his dedication to human rights and the environment.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He married Margaret Elaine on April 22, 1942. The couple went on to have four children together: Antony, Nicholas, Stephen, and Catherine.
  • He passed away on October 21, 2014 of old age at 98.
  • In 2000 the ‘Whitlam Institute’ was developed. It was created within the ‘University of Western Sydney’.
  • He actually received his leaving certificate for high school in 1931 but was unable to go to university at the young age of 15. Until he could attend college, he continued studying with a focus on Ancient Greek

See the events in life of Gough Whitlam in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Gough Whitlam Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- October 16, 2017

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