Gough Whitlam was a great Australian whose Prime Ministership transformed nearly every aspect of our nation.
For residents like my family in the early 1970s, his reforms were even more pronounced.
Gough Whitlam put Western Sydney on the map – both in word, and in policy outcomes.
42 years ago, Gough Whitlam delivered his job application for Prime Minister to the people of Australia in our very own Blacktown Civic Centre. His “It’s Time” speech on that occasion remains the most memorable campaign speech in Australian history.
Gough laid out the breadth of his vision for a modern, open Australia. For the first time in history, he also detailed his desire to transform our suburbs for the better.
It is no accident that Blacktown was the location of that momentous occasion. Gough knew that Blacktown represented the potential for all Australians to realise their aspirations, regardless of their postcode, their place of birth, or their circumstances.
Thanks to Gough Whitlam, the highest quality healthcare was made available to Western Sydney by his decision to federally fund a new public hospital at Westmead, which has grown into the world class medical and research precinct that it is today. His example led to successive State and Federal Governments to direct health funding to where people lived.
To this day, long-time residents of Western Sydney know that it was Gough Whitlam who connected us to the sewerage system.
And it was Gough Whitlam who envisaged well-designed, affordable housing in our suburbs. As Prime Minister in 1973, he opened what was then known as “The Master Builders’ Association Centenary Parade of Homes and Presentation of the Pearce Reserve”.
This initial exhibition of homes grew into the suburb of Kings Langley. Lamenting the exorbitant prices of land and housing at the time, combined with a lack of co-ordinated urban and planning policies at all levels of government, Gough Whitlam pledged:
“No Australian should feel that a comfortable and well-built home in pleasant surroundings is beyond his dreams. Let this be the standard of housing exemplified in this exhibition today which we seek for all our people”.
Gough recognised the struggles of people in the growing suburbs of Western Sydney and set out to address them. He introduced universal healthcare and opened up education opportunities, which saw many locals become the first in their families to access a university education.
Gough Whitlam’s legacy is worth defending.
In his maiden speech, Gough stressed the needs of the people of Western Sydney: “It is clear” he said, “that they want a better deal. It is no less clear that they deserve a better deal”.
And it is plain to see that the challenges Gough set out to conquer in his time are no less relevant today.
Gough Whitlam will always remain an inspiration to me and, I am sure, many others in our community, for the rest of our lives.
I extend my deepest condolences to his family. May they take comfort in the eternal reunion of their parents, Gough and Margaret.
NOTE: Ms Rowland has established a condolence book which will be presented to the Whitlam Family. All members of the public are welcome to provide a personal message by visiting Ms Rowland’s office at 230 Prospect Hwy, Seven Hills between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
TUESDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2014