Gough Whitlam's Youth Revealed in New Exhibition

Media release: Thursday, 22 June 2017

A new exhibition at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra reveals the influences in youth that made Gough Whitlam an icon.

Touring from the Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University, The Way of the Reformer: Gough Whitlam in His Century, presents Gough, the everyday Australian. His childhood in newly founded Canberra – a collection of official buildings in a sheep paddock, but with a grand political view to the future – would foster in him a love of possibility and change.

'Gough Whitlam shaped the Australian nation, before that, the nation shaped him,' said exhibition curator Guy Betts. 'He once commented that “Nothing in politics grows in a vacuum … I realise I am but a child of my age'.

'We wanted to look at the ways that, like we all do, Gough experienced Australia and found he wanted to change things. Those experiences drew him into politics, and in many cases were the genesis of the policies he would later enact as Prime Minister.'

The exhibition connects Gough's life experiences with his way – the traits and opinions that became familiar to generations of Australians. It's revealed that his distinctively loud speaking voice that resonated with Australians was something he naturally developed to allow his near deaf mother, Martha, to hear him.

'This insightful exhibition tells the life story that shaped a great Australian leader,' said National Archives Director-General David Fricker. 'Gough's experiences formed the basis of beliefs that would reimagine the nation. During service with the RAAF in World War II, he travelled to the reaches of Australia and Asia and met peoples and cultures that he, and many Australians, had never before.'

Visit The Way of the Reformer and celebrate Gough's life – not just as Prime Minister, but as an Australian.

Open from 23 June 2017 at the National Archives of Australia.
9am–5pm, free entry

Contact information

  • Sophia McDonald (Senior Communications Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3697 m 0417 247 157 e media@naa.gov.au

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Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018