Australia remembers Gough

Today Australia celebrated the life of Edward Gough Whitlam, Australia’s 21st Prime Minister, in a State memorial service.

The capacity crowd inside Sydney’s Town Hall seated 1,700 people, including six former Prime Ministers and current Prime Minster Tony Abbott.

The baby boomer generation will remember Mr Whitlam for his key policy moves that changed Australia forever.

But does the youth of Australia really understand what he means to this country?

Robbie Williams, who is currently running for the WA Young Labor presidency, said he hoped young Australians were aware of the progressive changes the Whitlam Government made.

“I think young Australians understand what Gough did for this country, especially in terms of universal health care and free university education,” Mr Williams said.

“But I don’t think young people understand his achievements in recognising Aboriginal land rights and beginning a strong relationship with China.

“Some people don’t understand the small steps Gough took to make Australia better 30 years down the track.”

During the memorial service, the Whitlam family invited Cate Blanchett to speak on behalf of a generation who, because of Gough Whitlam’s actions, promoted gender equality and were able to access a free university education.

Blanchett said she was part of an Australia that was encouraged to explore its voice culturally.

She went on to say she was the product of an Australia that engages with the globe and engages honestly with its history and its Indigenous people.

UWA commerce student Obby McDonald said he knew Mr Whitlam was responsible for social change in the 1970s, but only realised the true extent of his legacy after his death.

“It’s funny how after someone dies we always find out these great things that the person’s done,” Mr McDonald said.

“I never knew that Gough was responsible for getting rid of conscription and pulling the troops out of Vietnam.”

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