Research guide launched to mark centenary of Whitlam's birth

Media release: Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Gough Whitlam: guide to archives of Australia's prime ministers, was launched today at the National Archives of Australia by former ALP Senator the Hon. John Faulkner, a great advocate of the democratic process and the last Minister to hold a post in both the Hawke and Keating governments.

The launch coincided with the centenary of Whitlam's birth on 11 July 1916.

Professor Jenny Hocking, author of a two-volume Whitlam biography, compiled the guide to primary source materials about Gough Whitlam's life and work, and aspects of the history in which he played a part. Whitlam entered federal parliament as the Member for Werriwa, NSW in 1952 and retained this seat for the Australian Labor Party through multiple elections until his resignation in 1978.

In 1972 Whitlam became the first Labor prime minister in a generation. Re-elected in 1974, his government was subject to political turbulence and criticism. When the Opposition blocked Supply in October 1975, the Governor-General Sir John Kerr took the unprecedented step of dismissing the Whitlam government, dissolving parliament and appointing Malcolm Fraser caretaker prime minister on 11 November. This event will forever be known in the Australian lexicon as 'the Dismissal'.

The guide touches on Whitlam's personal and family life and is expected to stimulate research into both his personal and official papers. A towering figure in life and Australian history, Whitlam died in 2014 at the age of 98.

'Making records accessible to journalists, historians, educators and the general public is one of our key roles,' said Louise Doyle, Acting Director-General of the National Archives.

'Archival records of all 29 Australian prime ministers show democracy in action, providing an insight into the life and times of our national leaders. Guides like this are essential tools to help people find relevant records, particularly when they are located across institutions – as Mr Whitlam's are.'

The Whitlam guide is the seventh in the Archives' prime ministers research guide series, listing archival resources regardless of where they are held, with the aim of making the records of all Australian prime ministers visible and accessible. The guide will be available online and from the Archives Store.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au

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