I was not yet eight years old when Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister. I could not have predicted that the positive changes he brought to my life would have carried on for over forty years. And not just in mine, but in my mother’s and grandmother’s , sister’s and brother’s.
Growing up on an invalid pension in Blacktown, his long arm reached out to pull us, all of us, up out of despair. He was our Superman.
These things were personal gifts to me. And I want to say thanks for them now, though I have been conscious of how precious they have been throughout my life.
Thank you for Medicare. Without it my mother would have died. It’s that simple.
Thank you for my education, for the chance to go to university, free of debt. For the money you poured into schools, for the building programs which brought opportunity to the disadvantaged.
Thank you for working for equality and equal pay for women.
Thank you for ‘no fault divorce’. It too saved lives.
Thank you for recognising and working toward recognition of indigenous rights to this land, for your respect and humility in seeking their voice.
Thank you for ending conscription and bringing the boys home from Vietnam. You began the very night of the election. You saved lives.
Thank you for caring for the national parks and preservation of wilderness.
Thank you for the money you poured into the Arts and Literature and Cultural Heritage. For the renaissance of film and theatre in the 1970’s.
Thank you for creating a positive multicultural society which was an example to the rest of the world. Thank you for SBS.
Thank you for bringing the sewerage system to western Sydney, for recognising that we had waited too long for a service others took for granted. For respecting our dignity….
Because of you there was food on our table, and we had hope. My eight year old self could dream of a future with fewer limitations and greater equity. My mother could afford her medication and my grandmother could afford to care for us.
I am old now, Gough. And I used the gifts you gave me to get an education and go to university. And I still believe in what mattered then. I’ve been moulded in your image.
Education. Equity. Compassion. Care. Generosity. These are the gifts brought to me in 1972. And they are with me still.