November 11, 1975 was a significant day for me. 8 years old, second grade at St Peter's Primary School East Bentleigh. It was stinking hot and sixty kids piled into one class to watch Playschool while the teachers took a break. The program was interrupted by the news flash the Prime Minister EG Gough Whitlam was dismissed. I remember the whole class erupted, booing the man with the big face on the telly. Thinking back it's interesting 8 year olds had any consciousness at all about who was the reigning Minister but such was the heat and influence of our largely Irish Catholic DLP driven electorate we knew to boo.
We never saw the end of that episode of Playschool. Soon after the bell rang for our own dismissal and I recall leaving my tadpole in the care of a boy called Scott Taylor while my family took a rare two weeks holiday at Point Lonsdale. Everywhere in the playground parents, (mothers) appeared speaking in shrill pitch. Gough was sacked.
To my mind sacked meant jumping about in a hessian sack and the image prevails. But sacked he was and it took another 8 years for me to understand what happened on November 11, 1975.
By then my politics teacher Diana Wolowski gave me a pretty broad idea of the climate at the time. A year later, Anna Griffiths our art teacher redressed me quite severely for aping my father's comments about the man. As a result I grew a new level of appreciation for what EG Whitlam did for this country and also what he failed to do.
My interest became passion, especially when the Hawke Government reintroduced tertiary fees via the Dawkins Green Paper in the late 80's. A small contingent from my college at the Victorian College of the Arts travelled to Canberra on a bursary from the school to lobby on behalf of ours and others educational rights. We approached Dawkins and received short shrift. I even buttonholed Hawke and was swiftly moved away from the PM. That wouldn't happen today- not the chance to button hole a PM in the corridors of power.
Some years later I was attending the Adelaide Arts Festival, then as a guest to do a reading of a novel I authored about the civil rights movement of Main Arm, Northern NSW and the origins of a green left independent newspaper. Walking down the street one night was Margaret Whitlam and I took the chance to say thanks to the Lady for her work in front and behind the scenes.
But still the passion lingered. One night, my 30th birthday, I was throwing a bit of a shin dig for a large crowd of eccentrics in a mansion out the back of Federal, NSW. Wandering into a bedroom I discovered the brains trust of Mullumbimby (the cohorts who ran and wrote the independent newspaper I worked for at the time). They were watching a segment on Roy and HG, interviewing EG Whitlam about his dismissal. One of those cohorts had worked on the It's Time campaign. Another had worked the Press Gallery at the time. The days of Wine and Roses were still very present for these elders and I guess for me too because I was struck with the idea of a story, a screenplay about a young girl so obsessed with the ideology of the Whitlam era it spilt a family into a voting and social schism. I called it then, God on Telly.
Some years later I moved to Melbourne and began working with Screen Producer Melanie Coombs. Melanie had her own connections to Gough, via her Grandfather Nugget Coombs - a man very much instrumental in returning native title our indigenous people. We worked for some years to manifest my screenplay into actual screen product and we came close. In the end, resigned to not making that piece of work I sent the screenplay to Gough himself. And he read it, and he rang me to say thanks and we had a good old chat about life and I got to do something I had wanted to do all my life. I got to say thanks, thanks for my education. I'm not wealthy, barely solvent. I work in the arts, I am often under employed but I don't think a day goes by without noticing how much my tertiary education enriches my life. So despite his hubris, the failings on behalf of Timor (and the Balibo 5) and some ludicrous and silly ideas, thanks again EG Whitlam for my life or part thereof-- the smart, delighted, curious, enriched and evolving brain I trained at University and the world it engendered of learning and how to keep educating myself.
someone who saunters around observing society.
(n) a lover of rain;
someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days