Former Australian Prime Minister and philhellene Gough Whitlam dies at 98

Our sympathy goes out to former Australian Prime Minster Gough Whitlam’s family and friends. He was known for his Philhellenic spirit and advocacy for reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Former Australian Prime Minster Gough Whitlam, who revolutionised the rights of migrants in the 70s has passed away aged 98.

A legend for many in the Greek Australian community, Mr Whitlam saw through a number of policy changes that impacted greatly on the new Greek migrant community of Australia.

Elected in 1972 as Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam abolished the White Australia Policy, introduced the Racial Discrimination Act and established community radio programs in different languages, provided migrant education centres and interpreters for emergency services.

His government also abolished university fees, increased spending on health education and pensions, while also introducing Australia’s first national health insurance scheme.

Despite his achievements, Mr Whitlam’s prime minstership was marked by controversy when his government was dismissed by governor general John Kerr in 1975.

Mr Whitlam was known for his love of the Greek culture, and was well versed in ancient Greek and had travelled to the country with his wife, the late Margaret Whitlam, more than 25 times.

He and his wife considered former Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and Greek actress, singer and politician Melina Mercouri as friends.

Local Greek Australians remember him as a staunch supporter of the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival, an advocate for the return of the Parthenon Marbles and a believer in ethnic media.

Before he was elected in 1972 he had visited Neos Kosmos’ offices to show his support for the paper.

Today, current Prime Minster Tony Abbott led the tributes, calling Mr Whitlam a “giant of his time”.

“He united the Australian Labor Party, won two elections and seemed, in so many ways, larger than life,” Mr Abbott said.

“In his own party, he inspired a legion of young people to get involved in public life.

Labor leader Bill Shorten also heaped praise on Mr Whitlam’s achievements.

“Regardless of one’s policies the nation has lost a legend … He redefined our country and in doing so he changed the lives of a generation,” he said.

Source: Neos Kosmos

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