Vale Gough Whitlam

Creating Australia expresses its deep sorrow at the passing of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam AC QC, on 21 October 2014.

Creating Australia acknowledges the contribution of Mr Whitlam and his government towards strengthening Australia’s place in cultural development.

In particular, Creating Australia recognises that Mr Whitlam had a love of the arts as stated in his 1972 election policy ‘to promote a standard of excellence in the arts, to widen access to, and the understanding and application of the arts in the community generally, to help establish and express an Australian identity through the arts and to promote an awareness of Australian culture abroad’.

We recognise and applaud some of the achievements of the Whitlam government in areas of culture and heritage:

  • Revamping the Australia Council for the Arts, providing it with appropriate and unprecedented funding and direction and making it a statutory authority in 1975
  • Establishing the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council
  • Establishing the Australian Film Commission
  • Establishing the Australian Film and Television School
  • Shifting Australia’s interest from conservative to contemporary arts
  • Providing support for the National Gallery of Australia, giving the Gallery the power and budget and an Art Acquisitions Committee to begIn developing an outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art
  • Creation of the Australian Heritage Commission and the Register of the National Estate, measures which helped to identify, protect and conserve sites significant to Australia’s social history for the benefit of future generations
  • Creation of the fundamentals of multiculturalism and the promotion of cultural diversity, including establishment of ethnic communities councils and migrant resource centres

We also applaud the contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition and land rights made by the Whitlam government as the first steps towards reconciliation by an Australian government. This includes:

  • The return of land to the Gurindji people in the Northern Territory
  • The creation of an Aboriginal Land Fund and Aboriginal Loans Commission
  • The establishment of the first elected national Indigenous representative body, the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee
  • The drafting of the first Land Rights Act for the Northern Territory
  • The passing of the Racial Discrimination Act

So many of the values of the Whitlam government remain important to contemporary Australia. We offer our condolences to the Whitlam family and acknowledge their great personal loss.