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Research Guides

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

Chapter 2 - The Whitlam family

Details about the lives of Gough Whitlam's family are recorded in a variety of archives. This chapter sets out records relating to his great-grandfather, Henry George Whitlam; his grandfather, Henry Hugh Gough Whitlam; his father, Harry Frederick Ernest (Fred) Whitlam; and his uncle, Fred Whitlam's brother, George Alexander Whitlam.

Henry George Whitlam

Henry George Whitlam was the first of Gough Whitlam's forebears to come to Australia. Having served with the British Army in India, Henry was discharged injured and arrived in Melbourne in 1852, headed for the goldfields. From 1864 Henry Whitlam worked for the Castlemaine Borough Council as a gardener with the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens. His dismissal and subsequent dispute with the Council are well documented in the records of the Castlemaine municipality and Castlemaine historical society. His insolvency and the inquest into his death are also recorded in the Public Record Office Victoria. The original handwritten journal kept by Henry Whitlam while he was with the Bombay Army, with detailed descriptions of battles including the campaign in the Punjab, is held privately by the Whitlam family.

British Library

Records of the East India Company's armies and the armies of the Indian government. These range from military policy, defence schemes and the organisation of army, navy and air force in India to the careers – appointments, pay, leave, promotions and pensions – of individual officers and soldiers in the Indian Army, Indian Medical Service and Royal Indian Navy. Medal rolls, prize and battle rolls, and soldiers' letters are included among the military department records, as are the records of soldiers' and cadets' entry into the military service in England before embarkation.
Series: L/MIL
Recorded by: Bombay Army/East India Company
Register of recruits, London District, 1 September 1843 – May 1853, Volume 22
Recruits enlisted for the East India Company's service in the London District. The register lists Henry Whitlam, Gough Whitlam's great-grandfather, aged 24 and a draper from Middlesex. He enlisted on 27 February 1847.
L/MIL/9/7 & MF-IOR 19065
Bombay Army – muster rolls and casualty returns, September 1848
Lists Henry Whitlam, aged 25, of Middlesex. He enrolled on 6 January 1848.
Bombay Army – muster rolls and casualty returns, September 1849
Lists Henry Whitlam.
Bombay Army – muster rolls and casualty returns, September 1850
Lists Henry Whitlam.
Bombay Army – muster rolls and casualty returns, September 1851
Henry Whitlam was discharged as injured on 21 January 1851. He was 'sent back to Europe'.
Medal roll – Punjab Campaign 1848–49, Indian Army medal list, 1851–52
This item lists medal winners in regimental order of precedence and then by name, mainly alphabetically by rank. In a letter about the Bombay Army 1st Bombay European Regiment (Fusiliers) Roll of a Detachment of the above Corps and 2nd Europeans Light Infantry who arrived under command of Captain CR Hogg, within the Punjab on 18 March 1849, and for whom a claim for the Punjab Medal granted per GGO 30 October 1849 is preferred. Under 1st Bombay European Regiment (Fusiliers): Private 'Henry Whitlam', 'Discharged'.

Castlemaine Historical Society

Archive Collection

A discrete Whitlam collection is held by the Castlemaine Historical Society. It comprises newspaper clippings regarding Henry Whitlam's employment by the Castlemaine Borough Council; birth, death and marriage certificates; land records; and a unique collection of Whitlam family photos, including Gough Whitlam's grandparents Henry George and Adelaide Pattison Storr Whitlam.

Public Record Office Victoria

This series consists of records of the municipality of Castlemaine, mainly correspondence. Henry Whitlam was employed by the Borough Council of Castlemaine between 1864 and 1866 to guard prisoners employed to build the botanical gardens. The series includes Henry Whitlam's payslips and his correspondence with the council.
Series: VPRS 575
Recorded by: Castlemaine Municipal District 1855–63; Borough 1863–1950; Town 1950–65; City 1965–95
Letter from HG Whitlam to the Mayor and Borough Council of Castlemaine, 29 November 1866
Henry Whitlam wrote to the council about the ill-repair of Castlemaine's roads. He had fallen in a hole and suffered a broken arm and an injured leg.
VPRS 575, Unit 37
Letter from HG Whitlam to the Worshippfull Mayor and Borough Council of Castlemaine, 27 February 1867
Henry Whitlam was dismissed from his position with the Castlemaine Borough Council after a new gardener, Philip Doran, was employed. Whitlam believed he had been mistreated by the council and wrote to it in February 1867 to complain of the 'gross injustice done me by your body'.
VPRS 575, Unit 38
Letter books were the means by which copies of correspondence despatched from the office were retained for future reference. Correspondence within letter books is arranged in chronological order by the date letters were sent. This series includes three letters concerning Henry Whitlam's employment by the Castlemaine Council.
Series: VPRS 411
Recorded by: Castlemaine Municipal District 1855–63; Borough 1863–1950; Town 1950–65; City 1965–95
Joseph Davis, Town Clerk to Mr Henry Whitlam, Castlemaine, 7 July 1866
Davis wrote to Henry Whitlam to inform him that he was 'to quit and give up possession of the cottage' that he and his family had been occupying in the Castlemaine Botanical Reserve during his employment there.
VPRS 411/6/3, folio 334
This series consists of bundles of documents created in the process of declaring a person insolvent during the period 1842 to 1871. The documents within the files are original, handwritten and officially stamped and signed. The front of each bundle details the registration number, name of the insolvent and date sequestrated. Each bundle contains the original petition, sworn statements of causes leading to insolvency, proof of debts by creditors, and an inventory of the insolvent's estate. The series ended in 1871 with the establishment of the Court of Insolvency, Melbourne (VA 2304).
Series: VPRS 759
Recorded by: Supreme Court of New South Wales for the District of Port Phillip (1842–52); Supreme Court of Victoria (1852–71)
Proceedings in insolvent estates – schedule of Henry George Whitlam, 1848–75
Henry Whitlam was declared insolvent in November 1852.
VPRS 759/24/7524
This series comprises files relating to inquests and magisterial inquiries into deaths of people in Victoria as conducted by coroners' courts throughout the state. Although the files were created by various courts, storage and registration were the responsibility of the Office of the Registrar-General from around 1856 to 1988. Files dating back to 1840 were covered by this arrangement.
Series: VPRS 24
Recorded by: Office of the Registrar-General and Office of Titles (1873–1988)
Proceedings of inquest held upon the body of Henry George Whitlam at Homeopathic Hospital, Port Melbourne, 6 September 1887 – received at the Crown Law Offices, 13 September 1887
Henry Whitlam was killed as a result of a vehicle collision on St Kilda Road, Melbourne. His son, Henry Hugh Gough, was driving the carriage in which he was travelling.
VPRS 24/1887/1128

State Library of Victoria

Series: GMF 98
Castlemaine Almanac, Directory, 1882–63
Lists Whitlam, Henry G Bailiff, Clinker's Hill, Castlemaine.
GMF 98, Box 40, Fiche 32
Sandhurst, Castlemaine, Echuca, Maldon and Dunnolly Directory, 1867
Lists Whitlam, res. Botanical Reserve.
GMF 98, Box 40, Fiches 60–1
Series: GMF 105
Whitlam, Henry, Castlemaine, 28 November 1863
Lists Henry Whitlam's trade as 'assistant bailiff', stated liability as £115 and stated assets as £95.
GMF 105, Box 2, Fiche 4

Private Collection

Facts and scraps or various collections of a soldier
This is a journal kept by Henry Whitlam while he was enlisted in the Bombay Army. It comprises transcriptions of poetry; detailed descriptions of battles, including the 'March of the 1st Regiment BE Fusilliers during the Campaign of the Punjab in 1848–1849'; and a list of Henry's fellow passengers on the Earl of Hardwick on his return journey from Bombay to London.

Henry Hugh Gough (Harry) Whitlam

The Public Record Office Victoria holds records concerning the trial and conviction on three counts of forgery of Henry Hugh Gough Whitlam, Gough Whitlam's grandfather.

Public Record Office Victoria

This series commenced as a register of prisoners received at Melbourne area prisons, including Collingwood, Carlton and Williamstown stockades, Eastern Gaol, Hulks and Pentridge. It is uncertain where the record was located from 1850 to around 1860, possibly Melbourne Gaol. From around 1860, Pentridge became the central prison for the Melbourne area. Unless a prisoner passed through Pentridge, it is unlikely there will be any reference to him in VPRS 515.
Series: VPRS 515
Recorded by: Chief Secretary's Department (1855–71); Penal and Gaols Branch, Chief Secretary's Department (1871–1948)
Volume 25, Prisoner No. 14462 Henry Whitlam, c.1877
Henry Whitlam was charged with forgery and sentenced to five years' hard labour in 1877. This item lists details of his charge, trial and imprisonment, and a photo taken at the time of his imprisonment.
VPRS 515/25/14462
This series comprises documentation created in the course of the prosecution of individuals committed for trial on indictable and capital offences. The contents of this series were gathered, created and maintained by the recording agencies that were responsible for preparing and prosecuting such cases on behalf of the Crown.
Series: VPRS 30
Recorded by: Office of the Victorian Government Solicitor (previously known as Office of the Crown Solicitor)
Queen v Whitlam and Lewis, c.1877
This item is the entire trial brief. It comprises witness depositions and exhibits, including a letter from Henry Whitlam to his father, Henry Whitlam Snr, written a week before his arrest. Neither Henry Whitlam nor his accomplice, John Lewis, made a detailed statement to the court, and neither man had legal representation.
VPRS 30/P/0/401

State Library of Victoria

Series: GMF 98
Lists Whitlam, Henry, HG, living at Nottingham Street, Prahran.
GMF Box 9, Fiche 234
Lists Whitlam, HG, living at Dunoon Street, Caulfield.
GMF Box 12, Fiche 439
Lists Whitlam, HG, market gardener, Darling Road, Malvern.
GMF Box 19, Fiche 833

Harry Frederick Ernest (Fred) Whitlam

Fred Whitlam, Gough Whitlam's father, was a senior Victorian and Commonwealth public servant. Records of his working life with the Attorney-General's Department are held by the National Archives of Australia. This section lists series relevant to his work as Commonwealth Crown Solicitor and his involvement with the 1946 Paris Peace Conference led by the Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General Dr HV Evatt. Also noted is material held by the Australian National University Archives. Fred Whitlam's daughter Freda has a private collection of family correspondence and memorabilia, including numerous letters from Fred to his family while overseas as Australia's representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Commonwealth Crown Solicitor

Fred Whitlam joined the Victorian Public Service in 1901 after gaining first place in the Victorian Public Service clerical examination in 1900. In 1911 he moved to the Commonwealth Public Service, joining the Department of Lands and Survey, then in 1913 transferred to the Crown Solicitor's Office, which took him to Sydney in 1918, and finally to Canberra as Deputy Crown Solicitor, part of the first wave of public servants who moved to the national capital in 1927. He served as Crown Solicitor from 1936 until 1949, and was a prominent member of the Canberra community. As president of the University Association, Fred Whitlam was instrumental in the formation of the Australian National University. He was also an elder of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, chairman of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, and a driving force within the Canberra branch of the Institute of International Affairs.

National Archives of Australia

This is the main series of records maintained by Sir Kenneth Bailey as Solicitor-General and secretary of the Attorney-General's Department. Papers, which include correspondence, minutes, reports, newspaper cuttings, draft bills and notes, are filed in folders by subject or by names of correspondents and organisations.
Series: M1505
Quantity: 22 metres
Recorded by: 1950–64 Attorney-General's Department Central Office – Solicitor-General's Office (CA 5)
Whitlam, Harry Frederick Ernest, 1955–58
This item includes letters between Fred Whitlam and Kenneth Bailey, Fred Whitlam's curriculum vitae, and correspondence with Dr Nolde of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, of which Fred Whitlam was chairman.
M1505, 1383

This series comprises the main general correspondence files for the Department of External Affairs for the year 1946. Changes in the records reflect considerable administrative and organisational changes in the department during the period. The Public Service Board approved a new organisational structure for External Affairs in November 1945.

All communication between the Australian and overseas governments was channelled through External Affairs, as were matters dealt with by other Australian departments and diplomatic missions in Australia and overseas, except the Australian High Commission in London. A large part of the department's work was devoted to international conferences and Australian policy towards a large number of international organisations. Australia was represented on all major United Nations bodies.

Series: A1067
Quantity: 32 metres
Recorded by: 1945–46 Department of External Affairs (II), Central Office (CA 18)
Whitlam, HFE to United Kingdom, 1946
This item includes a memo, dated 30 May 1946, stating that Mr HFE (Fred) Whitlam, Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, would visit the United Kingdom for discussions with its government on matters relating to taxation.
A1067, T46/381
Canberra, Sydney
This is the department's main file series.
Series: A432
Quantity: 218 metres, 291 metres
Recorded by: 1929– Attorney-General's Department, Central Office (CA 5)
Human Rights Commission 7th Session, New York, 1951 A432, 1954/3779 Part 6
Human Rights Commission 8th Session, New York, 1952 A432, 1954/3779 Part 7
Human Rights Commission 10th Session, New York, 1954
Fred Whitlam was the Australian delegate to the 1950 and 1954 sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. These items include Fred Whitlam's correspondence with the Attorney-General's Department and the Department of External Affairs, as well as his comments on draft commission documents relating to self-determination, self-government, slavery and voluntary euthanasia.
A432, 1954/3779 Part 9
This extensive series includes files on parliament, state funerals, Cabinet committees and foreign affairs.
Series: A462
Quantity: 52 metres
Recorded by: 1951–55 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Official visits abroad – Whitlam, HFE (Fred), 1953–54
This item comprises correspondence and paperwork detailing Fred Whitlam's attendance at the 9th session of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva in 1954.
A462, 850/23/30
These files deal with such matters as public service applications, appointments, creation of positions, regulations and amendments thereto, examinations, disqualifications, transfers and precedents.
Series: A466
Quantity: 8.3 metres
Recorded by: 1916–23 Public Service Commissioner's Office (CA 597)
Application by HFE (Fred) Whitlam, Deputy Crown Solicitor, NSW, to be credited with State Service, 1923
Fred Whitlam was first appointed to the Victorian Public Service on 8 July 1901. He became Deputy Crown Solicitor (Commonwealth) in 1921. In 1923 Fred Whitlam applied to the Commonwealth Public Service Inspector for the State of NSW for his service to the state of Victoria to be 'reckoned as service in the Commonwealth Service'.
A466, 1923/6928

Paris Peace Conference

In 1946 Fred Whitlam was a member of the Australian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference led by Labor Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs Dr HV Evatt. In the latter part of his career, Fred Whitlam was closely involved in United Nations matters as an adviser to the Department of External Affairs and as Australian representative to the 1950 and 1954 sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

National Archives of Australia


The Allies considered mechanisms for the peace process following World War II as early as 1943. Australia was anxious to play an independent part, particularly with regard to Japan. Dr HV Evatt, as Minister for External Affairs, was nominated to put Australia's case for the involvement of all combatant nations to the Council of Foreign Ministers in September 1945.

The government announced on 17 July 1946 that its delegation to the Paris Peace Conference would comprise HV Evatt as leader, JA Beasley (Australian Minister in London) as deputy leader and Col Hodgson (Australian Minister in France) as third delegate. The delegation also comprised consultants, advisers and staff, including WE Dunk (Secretary, External Affairs), HFE Whitlam, Keith Officer, Alfred Stirling, Major-General HJ Boase, JDL Hood, Dr ER Walker and Dr JW Burton.

The conference opened on 29 July 1946 at the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris. Australia was represented on all five Political and Territorial Commissions, chaired the Commission for Finland, and was instrumental in having separate sub-commissions set up to deal with the questions of Trieste and the Czechoslovak/Hungarian border. Australia also served on both Economic Commissions, the Military Commission, and the Legal and Drafting Commission, submitting a large number of recommendations and amendments to draft reports.

Early stages of the conference mainly involved considering procedures for appointing a chairman and the voting method to be adopted. Australia was in favour of simple majority voting rather than a two-thirds majority. The commissions started their work in the fourth week of the conference. They continued to meet until 5 October, when they reported to the Plenary Conference, which began considering reports from 7 October. Australia's suggestions to establish a European Court of Human Rights and a mechanism by which the treaties might be reviewed were rejected. The final session of the conference was on 15 October 1946.

Delegates were based in the Australian Legation in Paris. After Dr Evatt returned to Australia, JA Beasley, who cabled daily reports to Canberra, led the delegation. During its stay in Paris, the delegation received numerous submissions and memorandums from official and unofficial bodies, including the Italian delegation, Albanian Government and various other groups with special interests. The surviving files do not appear to have any particular order. Some papers are in Legation file covers and one or two items have a number which may be a post-file number.

Series: A11549
Quantity: 0.2 metres
Recorded by: 1946 Department of External Affairs (II), Central Office (CA 18)
Paris Peace Conference – Italian colonies – contains cable from Beasley to Evatt, 1946
This item includes cables from JA Beasley (Australian Minister in London) to HV Evatt (Minister for External Affairs) outlining Evatt's strong position on small, independent nations such as Australia in the peace process.
A11549, 7
This un-numbered series comes from a collection of files returned from the Australian Embassy, Paris, in mid-1966. The records cover the period from creation of the mission to 1951. This series includes materials produced by, and for, Mr RW Linkson, Head of the Australian Delegation to the Inter-Allied Reparations Agency, when he worked from the Embassy in Paris.
Series: A8602
Quantity: 0.2 metres
Recorded by: 1945–51 Australian Legation, France (Paris); Australian Embassy, France (Paris) (CA 2750)
Paris Peace Conference – Dr Evatt – personal, 1946
This item includes two telegrams from HV Evatt to his friend, businessman and diplomat WS Robinson, which give an insight into Evatt's view on Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Soviet Union, 1939–56, who also attended the Peace Conference.
A8602, 11
Paris Peace Conference 1946 – general information
This item gives an idea of the scope of the conference and the vast scale of conference office requirements.
A8602, 5
This series contains records collected by Sir Frederick Shedden during his career with the Department of Defence and after his retirement.
Series: A5954
Quantity: 201 metres
Recorded by: 1937–71 Department of Defence (II) (Central Administration) (CA 19); Sir Frederick Geoffrey Shedden KCMG, OBE (CP 320)
Reports from Australian delegation – Peace Conference, Paris, July–October 1946
This item comprises Fred Shedden's long commentaries on, and overview of, the conference; reports from the Australian delegation; and summaries of Australian proposals. Fred Whitlam accompanied the Australian delegation and supported Evatt's case for an international human rights court.
A5954, 1893, 3
Paris Peace Conference 1946 – general information
This item gives an idea of the scope of the conference and the vast scale of conference office requirements.
A8602, 5
This series comprises the main general correspondence files for the Department of External Affairs for 1946. A major component of the department's work was devoted to international conferences and Australian policy relating to a large number of international organisations, including United Nations bodies.
Series: A1067
Quantity: 32 metres
Recorded by: 1945–46 Department of External Affairs (II), Central Office (CA 18)
General – Paris Peace Conference – Peace Conference reports, 1946
This item comprises several cables between JA Beasley (Australian Minister in London) and HV Evatt (Minister for External Affairs), and Beasley and Col Hodgson (Australian Minister in France). It provides an overview of the role played by Australian delegates in conference proceedings.
A1067, E46/38/14

Private collection

Gough Whitlam's sister Freda holds a significant collection of family correspondence and memorabilia, including numerous letters from Fred Whitlam to his family written while at the Paris Peace Conference and the United Nations Human Rights Commission in New York.

George Alexander Whitlam

Like his brother Fred, Gough Whitlam's uncle, George Whitlam, was a public servant. George Whitlam entered the Victorian Public Service after leaving school in year 8 (the final year of public schooling), and in 1918 became private secretary to the Victorian Premier, HSW Lawson. He then transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service, serving first as secretary to Prime Minister William (Billy) Hughes and then as secretary at Australia House when it opened in London. George Whitlam later became secretary to the Executive Council, working with Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs. He lived with Gough Whitlam's family in Canberra from 1927 until after the depression of the 1930s. Some of George Whitlam's letters and photographs of him are included in a series of family records held at the National Library of Australia.

National Library of Australia

This collection is held privately by Brenda Murray, who was George Whitlam's ward during World War II. It includes letters written by George Alexander Whitlam, Gough's Whitlam's uncle, to his family while he was employed at the High Commission in London. 'Uncle George' was a keen bushwalker and this collection also includes photographs of him walking in the Victorian countryside, namely in Walhalla and Mansfield.