Before Gough Whitlam introduced free tertiary education in 1974, if you were a very bright girl from a less than privileged background, you had three career choices: wife, teacher or nurse. I count myself extremely lucky to have entered tertiary education in 1978. What would I have become, if not for Gough?
Whitlam was an inspirational prime minister, a visionary, a man of high intelligence and sharp humour. I had the great privilege of hearing him speak, and meeting him ever so briefly at the Melbourne Writers' Festival in 1997.
In the paper today, under Today's Birthday, it says: "He institutionalised universal health care, provided free tertiary education, implemented legal aid programs, enacted the Racial Discrimination Act, kicked off Aboriginal land reform and granted independence to Papua New Guinea."
Critics call him arrogant. My God, anyone who did half as much as he did has the right to be arrogant! I would not be who I am if not for Gough Whitlam. And Australia would not be the vibrant, multicultural place it is without him either.
Today I say Hip Hip Hooray for Gough Whitlam. Happy 97th Birthday, and as we say in Greek: Na ta ekatostiseis!!!