SYDNEY (AP) – Australia’s reformist Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who lost power in a constitutional crisis in 1975, has been commemorated on Wednesday at a packed state memorial service at Sydney Town Hall.
Whitlam died in Sydney on October 21 at the age of 98 and was cremated in a private funeral last week. Thousands watched the service Wednesday on outdoor television screens in Sydney and Melbourne.
His centre-left Labor Party government lasted less than three years before it was dismissed by the then governor-general, representing Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s official head of state. Speakers recalled how his brief reign transformed Australia with reforms once considered radical and now accepted as part of everyday life.
Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett recalled how she benefited from free university education and free health care that the Whitlam government provided, as well as increased federal funding for the arts.
“I was but three when he passed by, but I shall be grateful until the day I die,” Blanchett said, in a play on a lyric by British composer Charles Hubert Hastings Parry.