I was three when Gough Whitlam was dismissed. The two years and nine months that he was the 21st prime minister of Australia brought in many changes – changes for a better, fairer society. His vision of Australia was of the kind that we as Christians envision.
As a society and Church, we have struggled with our response to the injustices inflicted upon our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Gough cut through this and personally delivered land back to the Gurindji people. He understood the pain and torment Indigenous Australians had been through – what the loss of their land was doing to them physically and mentally.
I admired his commitment to equality – to equal pay, appointing a Women’s Adviser to the Prime Minister, establishing the family court, single mothers’ pension, removing restrictions to the oral contraceptive pill, bringing in no fault divorce; to name but a few. And of course, I cannot think about Gough without thinking of his commitment to free education and healthcare for all Australians.
However, what I admire the most is that he enabled and encouraged others to enter politics. Joan Kirner had her feet set on the path by Gough appointing her to the teachers’ board. Rev the Hon Brian Howe has said that it was in listening to Gough speak in Melbourne that he felt that he should enter politics, to stand up more for what he believed in, to make more of a difference.
If we are serious about our commitment that all are equal in the eyes of God, then maybe we should learn from Gough Whitlam to work as hard as we can to make our society a better and fairer place for all.
Lisa Carey is a UCA Member on the VCC and NCCA Executive and National Coordinator, EMILY’s List Australia.