Fiona Ferguson is in mourning for Gough Whitlam but definitely not in hiding. Her old “It’s time” badge has come out of the drawer, along with a friend’s “We want Gough” badge.
Gough Whitlam’s deathhas saddened and inspired some in the Eurobodalla to wear their hearts on their sleeves – or at least their badges in full view.
A visibly moved Fiona Ferguson was on Tuesday proudly wearing her original “It’s time” badge in a Batemans Bay cafe, along with a friend’s “We want Gough” badge.
The former was a memento of the elation of 1972, when the then leader of the opposition’s campaign was in full flight.
The latter was a memento of a more defiant mood, after the Prime Minister was dismissed in 1975.
Ms Ferguson, of Mossy Point, will never forget the atmosphere when Whitlam was swept to power – even if she could not vote.
“I remember the excitment of the “It’s time” campaign and not being old enough to vote, because the age was 21, and I was 18.
“I was still caught up with the excitement of the campaign and had a badge and went to the opera house and heard the launch.”
For Ms Ferguson, Whitlam’s election meant an opportunity to excel.
“It meant I had the opporunity to go to university, which I would never otherwise have done,” she said.
“It meant the same to many of my friends.
“There are so many of us who talk about how we would not have achieved what we have done, academically and in social justice areas, without that opportunity.”
Ms Ferguson said Whitlam pushed Australia into the wider world.
“I was proud to have an Australian prime minister of such towering intellect,” she said.
“On the world stage, he was pushing Australia.”
Ms Ferguson also said Whitlam championed the rights of women, creating a dedicated role in his government.
“It was unheard of,” she said.
Moruya’s Penny Ryan also pulled out a cherished badge to wear to the gym on Tuesday.
She said she came from a rural community where ALP membership was not the norm.
“I started handing out for the ALP when I was 12 years old,” Ms Ryan said.
“My dad was farmer out at Forbes, so it was not very fashionable to be an ALP member.
“He had a longstanding concern for social justice and for the rights of workers.”
However, she did not join the party herself until mid-life, upset by Whitlam’s dismissal.
“I was coming back from child birth classes and walked into the office to thenews,” she said.
“That was huge.”
Ms Ryan credits Whitlam with supporting “the arts, making people interested in politics, supporting education, culture, the environment and urban and regionaldevelopment.
“That was big in country areas,” she said.
Moruya’s Olgamary Savage said Whitlam “brought the troops home from Vietnam, which was what most of us wanted”.
She said he opened up politics and Australia.
“I came from a family of nine and a whole lot of us were able to become qualified by free tertiary education,” Ms Savage said.
“Australian film came of age, there was Medibank – it piles up when you think of it.
“I am quite upset, and the more I watch the more upset I get.”
Ms Savage acknowledged Whitlam had made “poor economic choices and that has hung over the ALP for years”.
“They had been in opposition so long, they wanted to do everything at once,” she said.
“He wanted a place for Australia on the international stage.
“He was the first Western leader to go to China.
“So much has died, but so much remains.”
Batemans Bay’s Ewan Morrison joined the party the day in either 1973 or 74 he met Whitlam by chance at Sydney Airport.
“I was working for Ansett Airlines and was in the job where you park the aeroplane,” Mr Morrison said.
“Gough was first off a plane and I asked him why he was interested in being more involved with China.
“He took me to the departure lounge, sat me down and spoke to me for 10 minutes about it.
“I was 22 years old.
“I immediately went out and joined the party.
“He was that sort of guy.
“He took the time to explain issues and policies and was happy to do it one-on-one or in a group.
“He was an inspiration.”
He said Whitlam inspired a generation, “not only on our side of politics, but on the other side too”.
“He saw a vision for the nation, that it needed to change.
“He put in place a series of reforms and went ahead and did it.”
However, he acknowledged there were “too many reforms, too fast”.
Richard Strong, of Batehaven, yesterday remembered how his late mother, Joan Redshaw, was invited by Whitlam to be a delegate to an international women’s conference inMexico.
“He was a remarkable man and a great loss,” Mr Strong said.
“Malcom Fraser (Whitlam’s political nemesis in 1975, but later a friend) summed it up today: Whitlam had great aspirations for this country, when the country perhaps could not afford them.”
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