Gough Whitlam memorial: thousands gather to pay respect

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

United: Thousands gathered outside the Town Hall during the former Prime Minister’s memorial service. Photo: Nic Walker Sweltering: The crowd endures the heat outside the Town Hall. Photo: Nic Walker

 Transcript: Noel Pearson’s speechGough Whitlam’s memorial: as it happenedRegistered mourners turned awayTony Abbott and John Howard booed

From the four corners of Australia they journeyed, some armed with banners, some with signs, others just carrying their memories.

A few “It’s time” T-shirts had been dusted off for the occasion; others endured the sweltering sun in their suits, while stealing a long lunch from work.

In their thousands, they flocked to Town Hall – the venue hand-picked by Gough Whitlam for his final farewell.

And eclectic though they were, they arrived united in their cause: to pay their respects to the man who ignited the optimism of the nation in the way no one has since.

Streets were cordoned off and lines snaked out from Town Hall as those without tickets queued for hours, vainly hoping to procure one of coveted seats reserved for members of the public.

Those who missed out gathered in Town Hall’s public square, where a screen projected the service to the masses.

“Gough chose this venue – of course he did, the people’s hall,” Master of Ceremonies Kerry O’Brien told the crowd.

Before and after the ceremony, and with hushed exchanges in between, the faithful swapped their recollections of the Whitlam era.

“I’m here because, as a young person, Gough Whitlam changed my life,” Rhonda Nolan, who had travelled from Ipswich, said.

“I was a poor country kid, with a single mother, I grew up in government housing. I got to go to university because of the Whitlam government’s education policies.

“Gough Whitlam made us see a big, positive picture of Australia and what it could be. We don’t have that any more.”

A migrant teenager when Whitlam came to power, Theodora Laftkas said the idea of two Australias – one before Whitlam, one after him –as very real for her.

“When he came into power, I was in my early teens. I was a migrant kid, and there was a lot of racism and prejudice amongst the broader population. Things changed after 1972. Politically, we were accepted,” she said.

Younger people also numbered among those who attended the service. For Tom Harris-Brassil, 26, the Whitlam era is one of inherited mythology from parents who lived through it.

“I was brought up on the legend and importance of Gough Whitlam’s contribution to society,” he said.

At the back of the public square, a red candle burned in front of a framed picture of Whitlam – a makeshift shrine to a man whose place in the nation’s history is indelible.

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