Gough Whitlam Biography

(Former Prime Minister of Australia)

Birthday: July 11, 1916 (Cancer)

Born In: Kew Vic

Gough Whitlam was Australia’s Prime Minister and a visionary whose ideas were 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.

Quick Facts

Australian Celebrities Born In July

Also Known As: Edward Gough Whitlam

Died At Age: 98


Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Whitlam

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

Born Country: Australia

Prime Ministers Political Leaders

political ideology: Political party - Australian Labor Party

Died on: October 21, 2014

More Facts

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

  • 1

    What were some key policies implemented by Gough Whitlam during his time as Prime Minister?

    Gough Whitlam implemented several key policies during his time as Prime Minister, including the introduction of universal healthcare through Medibank, the abolition of university fees, the recognition of China, and the establishment of legal aid services.

  • 2

    What led to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister in 1975?

    Gough Whitlam was dismissed as Prime Minister in 1975 following a political crisis known as the "Dismissal," where Governor-General Sir John Kerr used his reserve powers to remove Whitlam from office after a budgetary deadlock in Parliament.

  • 3

    How did Gough Whitlam's government impact Indigenous Australians?

    Gough Whitlam's government had a significant impact on Indigenous Australians, with policies such as the establishment of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the return of land to the Gurindji people, and the recognition of land rights paving the way for greater Indigenous rights and self-determination.

  • 4

    What was the significance of Gough Whitlam's visit to China in 1971?

    Gough Whitlam's visit to China in 1971 was significant as it marked the first time an Australian opposition leader had visited the country and helped to pave the way for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and China when Whitlam became Prime Minister.

  • 5

    How did Gough Whitlam's government contribute to the modernization of Australia?

    Gough Whitlam's government played a key role in the modernization of Australia through policies such as the introduction of no-fault divorce, the implementation of a national telecommunications system, and the expansion of social welfare programs to support the needs of a changing society.

Childhood & Early Life

Gough Whitlam 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 Gough Whitlam 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 ‘Australian Labor Party’ minority and began gaining popularity within the group.

In 1960, Gough Whitlam became deputy leader of the ‘Australian 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, 1975, Governor John Kerr made a move which effectively dismissed him as Prime Minister.

In the 1977 election, Gough Whitlam lost and decided to quit the party leadership. A year later he resigned from parliament.

Major Works

In January 1973, Gough Whitlam's government recognized Communist China and resumed diplomatic relations with the country which had been halted for over 24 years. In October 1975, he became the first Prime Minister to visit the People’s Republic of China.

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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, Gough Whitlam 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

Gough Whitlam 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 created within the ‘University of Western Sydney’.

Facts About Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam was known for his love of poetry and frequently quoted literary works in his speeches and interviews.

Whitlam was an avid swimmer and enjoyed taking regular swims in the ocean throughout his life.

He had a great sense of humor and was known for his quick wit and ability to make people laugh in any situation.

Whitlam was a passionate advocate for universal healthcare and education, and his policies in these areas have left a lasting impact on Australia.

He was a talented pianist and often entertained guests at official functions with his musical skills.

See the events in life of Gough Whitlam in Chronological Order

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