Single handedly kick-starting the modern Land Rights movement – Gough Whitlam with Vincent Lingiari

We received this letter from Fiona McKeague, a 28 year old Westender contributor, and thought to share it with you.

Dear Gough,

I always meant to write you a letter. You told us that it was time, but we didn’t listen. Now time has passed on, and so have you. I’m sorry. The loss is unexpectedly full of nostalgia and regret.

I wanted to tell you that I know everything didn’t go as planned. That nasty inflationary spiral was the dark horse that led to your undoing. Blocking supply was a divisive political tactic by your opposition, but attempting to source funding from international tycoons came across as desperately sketchy and lost you a lot of your street cred. The night of the long prawns was an unfortunate bungle but a colourful addition to the history books. The dismissal was a beastly move, but you can take solace in the fact that Jon Kerr’s reputation never really recovered. He retired into obscurity, while you got to have a popular Australian band named after you. Apparently they make hamburgers, and they get all the girls.

Three short years in office made you a martyr to the lost dream of a progressive Australia and scored you a proxy record deal.

I imagine you must be frustrated with all of the should-have-beens, the missed opportunities, the winding back of initiatives. Despite the abolition of university fees that educated the current generation of policy makers, fees have returned with a vengeance. While you afforded women equal pay in legislation we have yet to undo the structural inequalities that still keep women in lower paying positions. We began to extract ourselves from the influence of US and British foreign policy and make our own way in the world, now we are busy pandering to North American interests like a lost puppy. We have Native Title legislation, but we are no closer to resolving the wicked problems of our colonial past that perpetuate Indigenous disadvantage in the present. We failed to maintain our rage and enthusiasm.

Despite all this you did have a lot of wins. Thanks for ending conscription and for championing social welfare, multiculturalism, telecommunications, and the arts. Thank you for the National Parks and Wildlife Service and for no fault divorce. Thanks especially for the Racial Discrimination Act and for Medicare. These things are now part of the fabric of Australian society. I think we forget that you had to fight for them.

Vincent Lingiari is grateful, and so am I.

So long, tall stranger, and thanks for all the fish. 

Fiona McKeague


About Fiona

Since graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Griffith University, Fiona has gone on to work in many fields ranging from archaeology and heritage consultancy to sustainable tourism.

Her background in the humanities and social sciences has led to her contribution to several higher education projects related to sustainability, including energy efficiency, community engagement, distributed leadership, curriculum renewal, and teaching and learning.

Fiona is a person who is interested in people.