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Making Modern Australia

The Whitlam Government’s 21st Century Agenda

Edited by Jenny Hocking


The Whitlam government propelled Australia out of the presumptions and certainties of twenty-three years of conservative government and changed it irrevocably. It passed a record number of bills into law and became the most successful reformist government in Australia’s history. This book brings to light aspects of Whitlam’s ambitious reform agenda that have been neglected for too long. The Australian Assistance Plan generated networks of regional and community cooperation that remain today. Plans for energy infrastructure and self-sufficiency that would ensure the use of the nation’s resources for the common good, appear more and more visionary. The ground-breaking Royal Commission into Human Relationships is clearly a forerunner of the current royal commissions into institutionalised child abuse and family violence. New research shows the extent to which this reforming agenda continued the post-war reconstruction plans of Curtin and Chifley. The personal dimension of this agenda – how Whitlam’s approach to policy design and implementation was influenced by his childhood in Canberra – is also detailed. Finally this book reassesses the place of the Whitlam government, and its dismissal, in history, in light of new material that continues to emerge from the personal papers of Sir John Kerr, and new analyses that challenge previous assessments.

Contributors include Michelle Arrow, Nicholas Brown, Erik Eklund, Murray Goot, Jenny Hocking, Carol Johnson, David Lee, Stuart Macintyre, Lyndon Megarrity, Greg Melleuish, Melanie Oppenheimer, Joanne Scott and James Walter.

About the Editor

Professor Jenny Hocking is Research Professor, Australian Research Council Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) Fellow in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University, the inaugural Distinguished Whitlam Fellow at the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University and a celebrated biographer, scholar and political commentator. Jenny is the author of the acclaimed two-volume biography Gough Whitlam: His Time and Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History.

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