During the Council meeting 3 November 2014 the Lord Mayor put forward a condolence motion to mark the death of Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC. As part of that condolence motion Councillors stood and reflected on their personal experiences.
The fact that each Councillor had their own reflections about how the policies of the Whitlam Government had affected their individual lives was really testament to the impact that those policies still have many years down the track.
Mr Whitlam’s family also attended the Council meeting on the night.
As the daughter of Greek migrants I believe there are a number of key reforms that had an impact on my family. These include:
- The creation of Australia’s national health insurance scheme with the introduction of Medibank.
- Passing the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and ratifying the United Nations convention.
- Providing grants to local government so that people living in Western Sydney could finally have the sewer connected.
This last point was particularly poignant because I grew up in an area that directly benefited from a sewer connection. I can clearly remember my mother dragging out the toilet to be collected before the sewer finally made it to our house.
The other lasting memory of Mr Whitlam was when he regularly came into our café on William Street and it was my job to make him a cheese and tomato sandwich. Both Mr and Mrs Whitlam visited our café on a number of occasions and their respect and kindness towards the staff is something that I will remember always.
Mr Whitlam was a big supporter of the Greek community and he travelled to Greece many times. In turn to say that the Greek community loved and respected this man is something of an understatement.
It was Mr Whitlam’s wish that his memorial service be held at Sydney’s Town Hall. The service was held Wednesday 5th November 2014.