Stephen Mills reviews 'Making Modern Australia: The Whitlam government’s 21st century agenda' edited by Jenny Hocking

In his powerful eulogy for Gough Whitlam at the Sydney Town Hall in November 2014, Noel Pearson described the former prime minister – this ‘old man’ – as one of those rare people who, though he never suffered discrimination, understood the importance of protection from its malice. Pearson speculated on the apparent paradox. How was it that Whitlam, an upper-middle-class white man, carried such a ‘burning conviction that the barriers of class and race [Pearson did not add, gender] should be torn down and replaced with the unapologetic principle of equality’?

Part of the answer might lie in Whitlam’s unique and complex relationship with his boyhood town, Canberra, a relationship explored by Nicholas Brown in this new anthology of essays about the Whitlam governments (1972–75).

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Published in November 2017, no. 396