NFP Sector Mourns Gough Whitlam
21 October 2014 at 12:03 pm
The Northern Land Council is one of the many national and local organisations paying tribute to former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam who died today aged 98.
In August 1975, at the site of the Aboriginal walk-off at Wave Hill, in the Northern Territory, Gough Whitlam formally handed back land to the Gurindji people, pouring soil into the hands of elder Vincent Lingiari, marking the first time land was handed back to Aboriginal Australians.
“Mr Whitlam was a great champion of the rights of Australia’s Indigenous peoples,” Samuel Bush-Blanasi, chairman of the Northern Land Council in a statement.
“Although it was the government of Mr Malcolm Fraser which passed the Northern Territory Land Rights Act in 1976, the substance of that law was in fact the creation of Mr Whitlam’s Labor Government.
“The Northern Territory Land Rights Act set the stage for the High Court’s Mabo decision many years later.
“And in August 1975, only three months before his removal as Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam heralded land rights legislation in the Territory when he famously handed back the lease of Wave Hill Station to Aboriginal Traditional Owners.
“Mr Whitlam was a great friend of Aboriginal people and land councils in the Northern Territory. In fact, his last visit to the Territory was in 2004 when he attended a dinner in Darwin to farewell the NLC’s long–serving former chairman, Galarrwuy Yunupingu.”
Flags outside the NLC headquarters in Darwin are flying at half-mast today in honour of Gough Whitlam.
As well as setting up the Department of Indigenous Affairs, the Whitlam Government also introduced the Racial Discrimination Act and ratified a number of international human rights treaties.
Chairperson of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria Eddie Micallef said the policies Whitlam’s Government introduced helped pave the way for the harmonious, inclusive and culturally diverse Australian society we enjoy today.
“While Gough’s contribution to society can be marked in many positive ways, from healthcare reform, to free access to university education, ECCV honours him for his commitment to Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities, in abolishing discriminatory policies and extending social and education provisions previously not in place,” Micallef said.
Philanthropic leader and former CEO of Philanthropy Australia, Elizabeth Cham worked for Whitlam from 1975 and today described him as a colossus.
“He’s a man we are not going to see the likes of again.” Cham said.
Cham walked into the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s office just before the Bass by?election in 1975 and continued working for him when he became Leader of the Opposition.
“On a personal note I am one of the many many Australian women who were able to take advantage of free education which helped me do the work I have been able to do.
“In office, Whitlam worked within a framework of total renewal for Australia.”
His children Antony, Nicholas and Stephen Whitlam and Catherine Dovey have issued a statement.
"Our father, Gough Whitlam, has died this morning at the age of 98," the statement said. "A loving and generous father, he was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians."
They said he would be cremated at a private ceremony.