Thousands gather to farewell Whitlam

BRENT ROW

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Gough Whitlam meets U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1973. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A host of political and cultural dignitaries have assembled in Sydney’s Town Hall this morning to attend the state funeral of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

Journalist Kerry O’Brien was MC at the event, which was broadcast nationally on ABC News 24. Kerry O’Brien paid tribute to Whitlam’s legendary sharp wit and sense of humour.

“His first choice was to have a funeral pyre in the senate,” Mr O’Brien said.

Lawyer and indigenous activist Noel Pearson spoke of the Whitlam government’s social reform policies, which enacted the Racial Discrimination Act as one of it’s final acts of policy in 1975.

“[Whitlam] was one of those rare people who never suffered discrimination, but understood the importance of protection from it’s malice,” Mr Pearson said.

“My chances in this nation were a result of the Whitlam program … he harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body.”

Long-term friend and speechwriter Graham Freudenberg highlighted the transformative effect of the Whitlam Government.

“There was an Australia before Whitlam, and there was a different Australia after Whitlam,” Mr Fruedenberg said.

“You would go to the barricades for such a man.”

Academy award winning actress Cate Blanchett paid tribute to the legacy of Whitlam’s Government, which founded the Australian Film Commission and revitalised Australia’s film industry.

“I am the product of an Australia that was encouraged to find and express itself creatively,” Ms Blanchett said.

The state service was also attended by thousands of the general public, who gathered outside the Sydney Town Hall to watch the service on monitors.

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