Whitlam, known for his sharp intelligence, completed his school leaving certificate aged 15 but was considered too young to go to university.



July 16, 1916 – Born Edward Gough Whitlam in Kew, Melbourne, to Martha (Maddocks) and Frederick Whitlam.

1921 – Family moves to Sydney’s north shore. Whitlam attends Mowbray House, then Knox Grammar.

1928 – Family moves to Canberra when Fred becomes Australian Crown Solicitor.

1931 – Completes leaving certificate exam at Telopea Park High School in Canberra aged 15. Considered too young to attend university Whitlam studies at Canberra Grammar and sits the exam another three times between 1932 and 1934.

1935 – Enrols at the University of Sydney, completes an arts and later a law degree. Member of the rowing and debating teams and the dramatic society. Editor of college journal The Pauline from 1938 to 1941 and student magazine Hermes from 1939 to 1941.

1941 – Joins the RAAF as a bomber navigator and flight lieutenant.

1942 – Marries university sweetheart Margaret Dovey. They had three sons and one daughter; Tony (1944), Nicholas (1945), Stephen (1950) and Catherine (1954).


1945 – After his discharge from the RAAF, Whitlam joins the Darlinghurst branch of the Labor Party in Sydney

1947 – Admitted to the NSW and Federal Courts as a barrister.

1948 – Stands for local government election for the Sutherland Shire Council.

1950 – Represents Sutherland in the NSW parliament

1952 – Elected to the House of Representatives for the Sydney seat of Werriwa.

1955 – Labor Party splits, with the Catholic right wing of the party breaking off to form the Democratic Labor Party (DLP)


1960 – Elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition, working with Arthur Calwell

1966 – Menzies succeeded by Harold Holt leads coalition to a landslide election victory.

1967 – Calwell resigns as ALP leader. Whitlam narrowly defeats rival Jim Cairns to become the Leader of the Opposition. Implements drastic internal reforms.

January 1968 – John Gorton becomes prime minister.

1969 – Labor wins extra 18 seats, four short of bringing down the coalition government.

1971 – William McMahon succeeds Gorton as prime minister

1972 – Whitlam wins the federal election with the “It’s Time” campaign. First ALP government since 1946. Becomes Australia’s 21st prime minister.

1972 – ALP establishes Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

January 1973 – Australian Embassy in Peking is re-opened, resuming diplomatic relations with China after 24 years.

July 1973 – Australian Legal Aid Office established

October 1973 – Whitlam becomes the first Australian prime minister to visit the People’s Republic of China.

December 1973 – Schools Commission established to implement a needs-based program of financial aid to public schools.

1974 – Government finances national highway system and standard gauge railway line linking Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Alice Springs. Brisbane’s city railway system is extended and electrified. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service established.

May 1974 – Labor re-elected as 18-year-olds vote for the first time.

October 1974 – Trade Practices Commission established.

1975 – Consumer Affairs Commission established.

1975 – Technical and Further Education Commission established, university tuition fees abolished.

May 1975 – Family Law Act enacted, liberalising divorce law and providing for a national Family Court.

June 1975 – Racial Discrimination Act becomes law. Australia bans South African sporting teams while the country remains under an apartheid regime.

July 1975 – National Health Care scheme begins, paving way for Medicare. Telecom and Australia Post replace Postmaster-General’s Department.

August 1975 – Whitlam formally hands title deeds to the Gurindji people at Wattie Creek in the Northern Territory.

September 1975 – Papua New Guinea celebrates independence from Australian administration.

1975 – ALP politically damaged by the Loans Affair.

October 1975 – Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser announces Senate will defer passage of supply bills until Whitlam calls election. Whitlam refuses. Three weeks of constitutional crisis follow.

November 11 1975 – Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismisses Whitlam government. Fraser made caretaker prime minister.

December 1975 – Liberal Party wins double dissolution election.

December 1977 – Whitlam succeeded by by Bill Hayden as ALP leader and Leader of the Opposition.

July 1978 – Whitlam resigns his seat in Parliament.

1978-1980 – Professorship at Australian National University.

1979 – Professorship at Harvard.

1981-1983, 1986-1989 – Professorship at University of Sydney.

1982-1983 : Whitlam campaigns for Australia’s complete adherence to ILO conventions and UN human rights, refugees, environment and heritage conventions and protocols.

May 1983 – Hawke Labor government appoints Whitlam Australian Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris.

1985 – Whitlam appointed to Australia’s Constitutional Commission.

1995 – Whitlams are part of bid team that won support for the Olympic Games held in Sydney in 2000.

1999 – Whitlam campaigns for a republic with Fraser ahead of referendum.

2000 – Whitlam Institute set up at University of Western Sydney.

2007 – Gough and Margaret made life members of the ALP. Later moves into Sydney aged care facility.

March 16 2012 – Margaret Whitlam dies.

October 21 2014 – Gough Whitlam dies.