Wednesday, 5 November 2014

‘The Whitlam touch is on us all’

Graham Freudenberg, Whitlam’s speechwriter and long-term friend, spoke these words today at the great man’s funeral.  He was farewelled at Sydney Town Hall by many.  As well as Freudenberg, Cate Blanchett, Noel Pearson, John Faulkner and son Tony Whitlam delivered speeches with the ceremony being presided over by Kerry O’Brien.

We have much to be grateful for when we think of Whitlam and all that he did for this nation.  I don’t pretend that he got everything right, nor do I pretend he wasn’t flawed, but I want to thank him for the inexhaustible list of changes he brought which continue to shape the lives Australians live today.

I thank him for not avoiding controversy when it was necessary for improving the lives of Australians.

I thank him for causing a review of how the nation viewed and treated its women.

I thank him for beginning the journey towards enshrining women’s right to equal pay.

I thank him for establishing support for single mothers and helping to eradicate the stigma these women endured.

I thank him for the fault free divorce, allowing women - and men - dignity in their exists from their marriages.

I thank him for the abolition of conscription. 

I thank him for lowering the minimum voting age to 18. 

I thank him for pouring the red earth into Vincent Lingiarri’s hands.

We are all beneficiaries of Whitlam and his irrepressible crusade for equality and opportunity.  I shudder to think what kind of Australia we would be living in today without Whitlam’s touch. 

There were some ministers in attendance at the funeral today who I bloody well hope were listening.  We don’t want to return to the Australia that existed before Whitlam.

Thank you, Mr Gough Whitlam, for all that you gave us.

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