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Research Guides


Gough Whitlam: Guide to Archives of Australia's Prime Ministers


Appendix 1: Timeline

This appendix is based on a timeline prepared by the Whitlam Institute at the Western Sydney University.

1916

11 July Edward Gough Whitlam is born in Kew, Victoria, to Fred and Martha (née Maddocks) Whitlam.

1919

19 November Margaret Elaine Dovey is born in Bondi, New South Wales, to Wilfred and Mary (née Duncan).

1918

The Whitlams move to Sydney; first to Mosman, then Chatswood and Turramurra.

1922–27

Whitlam attends Chatswood Church of England Girls School, Mowbray House School and Knox Grammar School.

1926–27

Whitlam’s father becomes Deputy Crown Solicitor under Sir Robert Garran and the family moves to Canberra.

1928–34

Whitlam attends Telopea Park High School and Canberra Grammar School.

1937

Whitlam completes his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney and begins a law degree the following year.

1938

Margaret Dovey represents Australia in breaststroke at the Empire Games.

1939

December Whitlam and Margaret Dovey first meet at a Sydney University Dramatic Society Christmas party.

1940

January–February Whitlam joins Sydney University Regiment.

1941

July Whitlam begins work with Supreme Court Judge Victor Maxwell.

1941

8 December Whitlam registers for service with the Royal Australian Air Force; undergoes training with No.13 Squadron.

1942

22 April Gough Whitlam and Margaret Dovey marry at St Michael’s Church of England, Vaucluse.

1942

20 June Whitlam enlists at No. 2 Recruitment Centre with the RAAF 'for the duration of the war and 12 months thereafter'.

1943

Margaret works as a social worker for the Family Welfare Bureau.

1943

September–December Whitlam joins No. 13 Squadron as air force navigator, operating out of the Northern Territory and from Dutch New Guinea.

1944

7 January Antony Whitlam is born.

1945

8 August Whitlam joins the Darlinghurst branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

1945

17 October Whitlam discharges from the RAAF with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

1945

6 December Nicholas Whitlam is born.

1946

Whitlam returns to the University of Sydney and completes his law degree. He is admitted to the New South Wales Bar in February 1947.

1948

Whitlam contests (unsuccessfully) the Sutherland Shire Council elections.

1948–50

Whitlam wins the Australian National Quiz Championship, broadcast on ABC Radio, in 1948 and 1949, and is runner-up in 1950.

1949

10 December A federal election is held. The Liberal Party, led by Robert Menzies, in coalition with the Country Party, defeats the ALP led by Prime Minister Ben Chifley.

1950

4 April Stephen Whitlam is born.

1951

28 April Menzies again leads the Coalition to victory in a federal election, defeating the ALP led by Chifley.

1951

13 June ALP leader Ben Chifley dies. He is succeeded as Leader of the ALP on 20 June by former Attorney-General, Minister for External Affairs and President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr HV Evatt.

1951–1952

July 1951–October 1952 Whitlam acts as junior to his father-in-law, WR Dovey, in the Royal Commission into illegal activities in the NSW liquor industry.

1951

22 September Prime Minister Menzies holds a referendum seeking power for the federal government to ban the Communist Party of Australia. The referendum fails.

1952

3 October Britain begins nuclear testing in Australia.

1952

29 November The death of the Hon. HP Lazzarini, ALP member for the federal seat of Werriwa, necessitates a by-election. Whitlam wins the seat and enters federal parliament as the ALP member for Werriwa.

1953

19 March Whitlam makes his maiden speech in parliament.

1954

2 February Catherine Whitlam is born.

1954

29 May A federal election is held. The Liberal Party, led by Robert Menzies, is re-elected in coalition government, defeating the ALP, led by Dr HV Evatt.

1955

March–April The ALP splits over internal ideological and sectarian fractures, leading to the formation in 1957 of the Democratic Labor Party.

1955

10 December A federal election is held. New electoral boundaries have divided Whitlam’s electorate in two and he stands successfully for the newly defined seat of Werriwa.

1956

24 May Whitlam is appointed to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.

1957

November The Whitlams move to Cabramatta from Cronulla, which has been excised from the seat of Werriwa.

1958

22 November A federal election is held. The Liberal–Country Party coalition again defeats the ALP led by Dr HV Evatt.

1959

16 February Whitlam is elected to ALP Caucus Executive under Evatt.

1959

29 November The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Constitutional Review delivers its final report recommending far-reaching Constitutional changes, none of which is taken up by the Menzies government.

1960

7 March Whitlam wins a Caucus vote to become Deputy Leader of the ALP, its youngest in 40 years. Arthur Calwell is voted Leader of the ALP, succeeding Evatt.

1961

9 December A federal election is held. The ALP is narrowly defeated.

1962

3 August Australia joins the Vietnam War. Conscription is later introduced.

1963

30 November A federal election is held. The Liberal–Country Party Coalition, led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, is returned to office, defeating the ALP under Arthur Calwell.

1964

Margaret commences as a part-time social worker at Parramatta District Hospital.

1966

26 January Prime Minister Robert Menzies resigns as leader of the Liberal Party and is replaced by Harold Holt.

1966

2 March Whitlam narrowly avoids expulsion from the ALP for advocating federal funding of Catholic and other independent schools.

1966

26 November A federal election is held. The Liberal–Country Party Coalition government is convincingly returned, the ALP wins only 41 seats.

1967

8 February Whitlam is elected Leader of the ALP and sets about reforming its policy platform, membership and structure.

1968

17 April Whitlam unexpectedly resigns as ALP leader in an effort to stem continuing damaging divisions in the party and on the party Executive.

1968

30 April Whitlam wins the new ALP leadership ballot, defeating Dr Jim Cairns by just six votes. Despite the unexpectedly narrow margin he succeeds in securing greater party unity.

1969

25 October Whitlam faces his first general election as ALP leader. The party wins an additional 18 seats with a 7.1 per cent swing to the ALP.

Late 1960s–72

Margaret Whitlam is a panelist on popular television program Beauty and the Beast.

1971

1–14 July Whitlam becomes the first Australian political leader to visit communist China when he leads an ALP delegation to Beijing, meeting with Premier Zhou En-Lai in the Great Hall of the People.

1972

26 January The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is established outside Parliament House, Canberra. Whitlam is the only party leader to visit the Embassy and meet with Indigenous leaders there.

1972

2 December A federal election is held. The ALP wins office after 23 years in Opposition and Gough Whitlam becomes Australia's 21st Prime Minister (elect).

1972

5 December Whitlam and his deputy Lance Barnard form the first Whitlam ministry, the 'duumvirate' or government of two, while waiting for counting in all seats to be completed. Whitlam is sworn into 13 ministries including Prime Minister, Barnard holds 14. The duumivrate holds office for two weeks and makes 40 major decisions during that time.

1972

5 December

The Whitlam government abolishes conscription, releases jailed draft resisters and returns the last remaining troops from Vietnam.

The Whitlam government removes restrictions on access to the contraceptive pill, such as sales taxes and advertising bans.

1972

7 December

The Whitlam government re-opens the second equal pay case to remove discrimination against women in rates of pay, Mary Gaudron is engaged as counsel.

The Whitlam government announces the end of the British honours system in Australia.

1972

8 December The Whitlam government bans visits by racially selected sporting teams, such as the Springboks, from apartheid South Africa.

1972

11 December

The Whitlam government announces $4 million of major grants for the performing arts.

The Whitlam government commits to signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

1972

12 December The Whitlam government announces the establishment of an interim Schools Commission to oversee immediate assessment of needsbased funding for disadvantaged schools in particular schools for Indigenous Australians.

1972

14 December The Whitlam government announces a Royal Commission on Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory.

1972

18 December The ALP Caucus elects the full Whitlam ministry.

1972

19 December The second Whitlam Ministry is sworn into office with Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Lance Barnard as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence.

1972

21 December The Whitlam government formally establishes diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

1973

16 March The Whitlam government lowers the voting age to 18 years.

1973

9 May The Whitlam government together with the New Zealand Labor government fights French atmospheric nuclear testing in the International Court of Justice. The case succeeds in 1974 in a landmark victory.

1973

18 June The Whitlam government introduces the first paid parental leave scheme in the country.

1973

25 July The Whitlam government creates the Australian Legal Aid Office.

1973

11 August The Whitlam government adopts the social policy of ‘multiculturalism’, consistent with a paper delivered by the Minister for Immigration Al Grassby on this day.

1973

21 August

The Whitlam government increases social security benefits, and introduces new benefits for single mothers and carers of children with disabilities.

The Whitlam government reduces tariffs by 25 per cent.

1973

31 August The Whitlam government establishes the Australian Film and Television School.

1973

17 September The Whitlam government’s Australian Citizenship Act is passed, removing the last remnants of the White Australia Policy.

1973

18 September The Whitlam government abolishes the Commonwealth's death penalty.

1973

17 October The Whitlam government signs an agreement with the states to build 13,500 social housing homes.

1973

31 October Whitlam becomes the first Australian Prime Minister to visit communist China.

1973

8 November Construction begins on the National Gallery of Australia.

1973

19 December The Whitlam government creates the Australian Schools Commission to provide additional and more equitable funding for all schools on the basis of needs.

1974

1 January The Whitlam government abolishes fees at universities and technical colleges.

1974

8 April The Whitlam government changes the Australian national anthem from 'God save the Queen' to 'Advance Australia fair'.

1974

18 May Whitlam achieves a historic second term when the government is re-elected at a double dissolution election. Whitlam becomes the first ALP Prime Minister to gain office at successive elections. Whitlam had called the double dissolution following the rejection of an unprecedented number of government bills by the Oppositioncontrolled Senate.

1974

6–7 August The first Joint Sitting of Parliament is held following the double dissolution election, the first time this Constitutional provision in section 57 is used. The six Bills used to trigger the double dissolution are voted on and passed during this two-day sitting. Electoral reform Bills introducing ‘one vote, one value’ and Senate representation for the ACT and the Northern Territory, and key Bills establishing Medibank and the Petroleum and Minerals Authority are all passed at the Joint Sitting.

1974

24 August The Trade Practices Act is passed, increasing consumer protections and rights.

1974

17 December The Whitlam government creates the Aboriginal Land Fund to enable Indigenous people to buy back their traditional lands.

1975

19 January The Whitlam government establishes Double J radio station for young people.

1975

26 January The Australian honours system is established by the Whitlam government.

1975

13 March The Whitlam government establishes the Australia Council for the Arts as a statutory body.

1975

8 June 2EA and 3EA (23 June), Australia’s first multicultural broadcasting service, established by the Whitlam government, go to air.

1975

12 June The Whitlam government's Family Law Act is passed on a conscience vote, introducing no-fault divorce and creating the Family Court of Australia.

1975

19 June The Whitlam government establishes the Australian Heritage Commission.

1975

20 June The Whitlam government protects the Great Barrier Reef with the creation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

1975

7 July The Whitlam government establishes the Australian Film Commission.

1975

16 August The Whitlam government returns traditional land to the Gurindji people at Daguragu.

1975

16 September The Whitlam government grants independence to Papua New Guinea.

1975

1 October The Whitlam government’s universal health insurance scheme, Medibank, begins operation.

1975

16 October The Opposition Liberal–National Country Party Coalition, led by Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser, defer a vote on the Whitlam government's budget Bills in the Senate.

1975

31 October The Whitlam government’s Racial Discrimination Act is enacted.

1975

October The Whitlam government introduces the first federal land rights legislation, the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill to legislate for Indigenous land rights in the Northern Territory.

1975

6 November Whitlam decides to call a half-Senate election to break the continuing dead-lock in the Senate. He informs the Governor-General and they begin the exchange of necessary paperwork; they agree to meet on 11 November to announce the date of the half-Senate election.

1975

11 November, 1.05pm Whitlam arrives at Yarralumla for a pre-arranged meeting with the Governor-General to finalise the announcement of the half-Senate election.

1975

11 November, 1.10pm Gough Whitlam and the entire Whitlam government is dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr without warning. The Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, is sworn in as Prime Minister.

1975

11 November, 3.15pm The House of Representatives passes a motion of no confidence in the appointed Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and calls on the Governor-General to reinstate the Whitlam government.

1975

11 November, 4.40pm The Governor-General’s Secretary reads the proclamation proroguing both Houses of Parliament and calling a double dissolution election.

1975

13 December The Fraser government is returned at the 1975 double dissolution election. Whitlam remains as Labor leader.

1977

10 December The Fraser government is returned at the 1977 election. Whitlam stands down as Leader of the ALP. He remains the ALP’s longest serving leader.

1978

6 June Whitlam is appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia.

1978

31 July Whitlam resigns as the ALP member for Werriwa after nearly 26 years.

1979

Whitlam is appointed the first National Fellow at the Australian National University.

1979

April–October Whitlam is appointed Visiting Professor at Harvard University.

1978–82

Whitlam accepts academic appointments at the Australian National University, Harvard University and University of Adelaide.

1979

February Whitlam publishes The Truth of the Matter.

1980–83

Whitlam serves on the University of Sydney Senate from 1980 until 1983 (he serves again from 1986 to 1989).

1981

Whitlam is awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) by the University of Sydney.

1983

Whitlam is a Visiting Professor at the University Adelaide.

Margaret is appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

1983

13 July Whitlam is appointed as Australia's ambassador to UNESCO.

1985

11 November Whitlam publishes The Whitlam Government 1972–1975.

1986

Whitlam is elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO.

Whitlam is appointed vice-president of UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Whitlam is appointed chairman of the Australia–China Council.

Whitlam serves on the Constitutional Commission.

1987

Whitlam is appointed chairman of the National Gallery of Australia.

1988

The World Conservation Union makes Whitlam a Member of Honor.

1989

Whitlam is awarded an honorary D.Litt. by the University of Wollongong.

1990

Margaret is appointed chair of the National Council for International Literacy Year.

Margaret is appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

Margaret begins work as a travel consultant with International Study Programs.

1992

Whitlam is awarded an honorary D.Litt. by La Trobe University.

1992–99

Margaret and Gough Whitlam lead a series of study programs in Eastern Europe, Thailand, China, South America, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Greece and Turkey.

1993

Gough and Margaret Whitlam join the bid team to bring the 2000 Olympic Games to Sydney.

Whitlam is made an honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

1994

Whitlam receives the Redmond Barry Award from the Australian Library and Information Association.

1995

Whitlam is awarded an honorary D.Litt. by the University of Technology, Sydney.

1997

Margaret and Gough are named Australian National Living Treasures.

1997

January Whitlam publishes Abiding Interests.

1999

Whitlam serves as a spokesperson for the 'Yes' campaign for an Australian Republic.

1999

6 November An Australian republic referendum is held but does not pass.

2000

The Whitlam Institute is established as a prime ministerial archive and public policy institute.

2001

Margaret publishes My Other World.

2002

Gough and Margaret Whitlam are awarded the Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop Asialink Medal for 2001 by the University of Melbourne.

2003

Margaret receives a Centenary Medal for outstanding service to Australian society and the Australian community.

2007

28 April Gough and Margaret Whitlam are made life members of the ALP.

2012

17 March Margaret Whitlam dies aged 92. The Whitlam family declines the offer of a state funeral.

2014

21 October Gough Whitlam dies aged 98.

2014

5 November A state memorial service is held for Gough Whitlam.

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