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Margaret Whitlam

March 18, 2012

I loved the upper caste Australian accent, somewhat patrician, that sat there along with her fierce common sense. With a private school education, the daughter of a judge, she was nonetheless perfectly at home serving sausages to campaign workers in their Werriwa home.

I remember a dinner with the Serbian community in Cabramatta in 1994 held in their local club where Gough spoke at some length about the Battle of Kosovo and other glories of the Serbian past. Sitting with us Margaret stamped her walking stick. “Oh, I wish he’d shut up!” she stormed.”He’s said it all before!”

She, like her husband, was committed to the people of Sydney’s West. She had seen her children have to travel vast distances to school. Seen the absence of hospital beds, seen Gough have to lug out a brimming pan of human waste after a community celebration because the hall, like the entire region, was not sewered. They lived in Fairfield until he became PM. They knew first hand the disadvantage of the new growth suburbs and wanted to fix it, which the Whitlam government very largely did.

We would see Margaret at the theatre with her loving daughter Catherine, arm around her mother’s shoulder.

I said yesterday that like Eleanor Roosevelt she broadened and enhanced her husband’s grandeur, as she stood with him over the years of political campaigning, constant and nurturing and used her position to push issues of womens’ rights.

News yesterday of her death saddened a lot of us. It was like losing someone from your own family.

  1. March 18, 2012 9:18 am

    Australians are lucky that people like Margaret and Gough fought for a better society.

  2. Snowy permalink
    March 18, 2012 9:23 am

    I was working on the Snowy Scheme when Gough came to power. After so many years of stifling conservatism, it was like a new dawn to hear Gough and Margaret speak of what this country could be. Vale, Margaret. We true believers will not forget you.

  3. John Mountbatten permalink
    March 18, 2012 9:26 am

    Hear, hear … Gough once said that Magaret was the best Appointment he ever made – and there can be little doubt about that!

  4. March 18, 2012 10:30 am

    good tribute Senator. Thanks.

  5. Ralf Kluin permalink
    March 19, 2012 5:22 pm

    I first met Mrs Whitlam in 1961 who gave us cordial drinks in her house in Albert Street Cabramatta. I had not long arrived from Hannover, and my Australian english was poor. Relatives, cousin of my parents, had completed the construction of their new house next door to the Whitlam residence and thus they became neighbours. From memory, the road was still not fully sealed and we played cricket out the front. I was also at our relatives and the Whitlam home on the eve that Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister of Australia.

  6. Les permalink
    March 19, 2012 8:33 pm

    Always sad to see someone of such significance to Australia’s history pass away, consolences to her family, esp Mr Whitlam. RIP.

  7. C Lamb permalink
    March 19, 2012 10:12 pm

    Well said Bob. She was a tower of strength in her own right, and deserves to be remembered for that just as much as for her role as Gough’s right hand.

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