Farewelling a giant
Today Andrew ventured into the heart of Sydney to join others who had gathered to pay tribute to the late Gough Whitlam, former Australian Prime Minister. Whitlam became prime minister when Andrew was about 9 months old. The changes that Whitlam made in the following 3 years in part helped Andrew be there today in his loaned electric wheelchair. Whitlam was behind medicare and without it so much of assistance that Andrew receives for his disability, would be out of reach – a fact not loss on either of us. Today because Whitlam believed in universal health care, Andrew was able to join other like minded souls paying tribute to this giant of Australian politics. He was there right at the front of the crowd near the large screen as Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly sang ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’. Andrew held up his iphone for just over 6 minutes to video the crowd – which with his muscle condition is not an easy task. He knew that it was a special moment and one he wanted to share with me. What he captured which you don’t get on the official video above are the cheers of the crowd – many of whom were Aboriginal – as they sing about the tall stranger who appeared in the land.
Whenever a public figure dies, there is often praise and remembrance. In the case of Whitlam I’m delighted that people are celebrating the way he changed our country forever. Too often his achievements, his vision and ambition for Australia is overshadowed by his dramatic dismissal from power. No matter what your political persuasion; no matter what your thoughts on the controversies of his time; I think it would be hard to disagree that the changes Whitlam made – and paved the way for – in 3 short years, changed the face of the nation for the next 40 years or more. A truly remarkable man.