The achievements of the Whitlam Government, 50 years later

It was fifty years ago today (2 December 1972) that the Australian electorate came to its senses after 23 years of stodgy, backward-looking conservative coalition governments. Gough Whitlam led the Labor Party to a victory over a shrivelled and useless McMahon—Anthony coalition.

In three dynamic years, the Whitlam Government effected many overdue and very welcome changes, in so many areas:

Race relationships: the White Australia Policy was abolished, the Racial Discrimination Act began the move into multiculturalism for Australia

Land rights: returning land to the Gurindiji people in the Northern Territory began the process that led to the Mabo and Wik judgements; free Aboriginal legal services were also established

Education: free higher education was introduced, making hundreds and thousands of Australians the first in their family able to go to university

Civil rights: both conscription into the armed forces and the death penalty were abolished

Healthcare: Medicare brought universal healthcare for all Australians, providing access to GPs and hospitals at minimal cost

Rights for women: no-fault divorce meant that women could chose to leave an unhappy marriage without being financially burdened; removing the tax on contraceptives meant the Pill was made affordable and accessible; the equal pay case meant women would be more fairly compensated in employment

Foreign affairs: Whitlam was the first Western leader to visit China, reorienting our focus to Asia, leading to a flourishing trade with the region

The Arts: funding to the arts was doubled, the National Gallery, the Australian Council for the Arts, and SBS were all established

All of this, and more, to be thankful for!

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Author: John T Squires

My name is John Squires. I live in the Australian Capital Territory. I have been an active participant in the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) since it was formed in 1977, and was ordained as a Minister of the Word in this church in 1980. I have served in rural, regional, and urban congregations and as a Presbytery Resource Minister and Intentional Interim Minister. For two decades I taught Biblical Studies at a theological college and most recently I was Director of Education and Formation and Principal of the Perth Theological Hall. I've studied the scriptures in depth; I hold a number of degrees, including a PhD in early Christian literature. I am committed to providing the best opportunities for education within the church, so that people can hold to an informed faith, which is how the UCA Basis of Union describes it. This blog is one contribution to that ongoing task.

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