Thousands honour Gough Whitlam

Thousands honour Gough Whitlam

Thousands gathered today to celebrate and bid farewell to former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at a moving State Memorial Service at the Sydney Town Hall.

Former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard joined Prime Minister Tony Abbott to pay their respects.

Rev. Niall Reid ex Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT represented the Uniting Church in Australia at the memorial service.

Among those at the service was a group of Aboriginal men and women from Kalkaringi or Wave Hill in the Northern Territory. The Gurindji people travelled thousands of kilometres to the Sydney Town Hall to pay special tribute to the former prime minister.

Aunty Millie Ingram gave the Welcome to Country. William Barton played the didgeridoo which was hauntingly beautiful.

Cate Blanchett spoke of being the living beneficiary of the Gough Whitlam reforms including free tertiary education and arts funding putting culture at the centre of Australian life.

Indigenous leader Noel Pearson said “he was Australia’s greatest white elder.”

Singer-songwriters Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody sang a version of their classic Indigenous rights song “From Little Things, Big Things Grow.”

In a moving speech eldest son the Hon Antony Whitlam QC paid his respects to his father and acknowledged his dedicated Christian faith. Mr Whitlam’s sister Freda Whitlam, who attended the service, was the 9th Moderator of The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of NSW and the ACT.

The Sydney Philharmonia Choir and Sydney Symphony Orchestra fittingly closed the celebration with “Jerusalem” by Hubert Parry, momentarily drowned out by a spectacular flyover of air force hornets.

Mr Whitlam, who died on October 21, aged 98 leaves a legacy of unprecedented change in Australian politics. He will be remembered for his passion for human rights. “[He] harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body,” Pearson said.

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