Gough Whitlam to have suburb named in his honour

Gough Whitlam to have suburb named in his honour

The death of former prime minister Gough Whitlam has had Canberra begin consideration of how best to honour a giant of Australian history.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said a new Canberra suburb would be named for Mr Whitlam, and the Labor icon's family would be consulted on the creation of a memorial or public recognition of his contribution to the nation and the capital.

Remember when: Gough Whitlam with Bob Hawke at a rally outside Parliament House in Canberra in 1975.

Remember when: Gough Whitlam with Bob Hawke at a rally outside Parliament House in Canberra in 1975. Credit:George Lipman

The Australian Electoral Commission confirmed on Wednesday Mr Whitlam's name would also be considered for any new federal electorate division.


Mr Whitlam, who died on Tuesday at age 98, gave his approval to the ACT government's Place Names Committee for a suburb to named after him.

Just the two of us: Gough Whitlam with wife Margaret in December 1972.

Just the two of us: Gough Whitlam with wife Margaret in December 1972.

Ms Gallagher expressed support for a statue of Mr Whitlam at Old Parliament House but said it was too soon to begin formal consideration of recognition of Mr Whitlam and his wife Margaret.

Gough Whitlam's father, Frederick Whitlam, brought his family to Canberra in 1926 when he was transferred to the new capital in his role as deputy Crown Solicitor.

The future prime minister lived in a family home in Forrest and was enrolled at Telopea Park Intermediate High School in 1927, completing the leaving certificate in 1931. He later studied at Canberra Grammar School and edited the school magazine, The Canberran.

Australia's 21st prime minister spent much of his life in the territory after his election to Parliament in 1952, aged 36.

Synonymous with Old Parliament House through his service as opposition leader, prime minister and the 1975 constitutional crisis and the historic dismissal of his government, Mr Whitlam is also linked with indigenous, cultural and environmental institutions in Canberra.

He lived at The Lodge from 1972 until Governor-General Sir John Kerr removed him from office on November 11, 1975.

Fraser MP Andrew Leigh proposed naming Canberra Airport for Mr Whitlam, who he said was an internationalist responsible for opening Australia to the world.

Ms Gallagher said the creation of a suburb named Whitlam would not come until at least late 2015. Tradition mandates a minimum of 12 months must pass before the honour is bestowed.

"I would think with the discussions that have been had to date and allowing for the proper process to continue, Gough Whitlam will be remembered in Canberra with a suburb or a division named after him," she said.

"I think everybody is aware of the important role he has played in this city. He grew up largely in this city and he has, of course, been a very revered prime minister and had a significant impact on the role of Canberra as the nation's capital."

The government will also consider other ways to recognise Mr Whitlam. A pavilion at the National Arboretum is already named for Margaret Whitlam.

"Both Margaret and Gough Whitlam were significant contributors to the national capital so I think it is also appropriate, aside from looking at suburban recognition, for us to consider other ways to name either important infrastructure, social infrastructure after Gough Whitlam, and I will certainly be considering options there," Ms Gallagher said.

Australian Electoral Commission guidelines say the names of Australian prime ministers should be considered for any new federal electorate divisions.

When new electorates are created, the guidelines say they should be named after dead Australians who have "rendered outstanding service to their country".

Recently named electorates include the New South Wales seat of McMahon, named for Sir William McMahon in 2009, and the Victorian seat of Gorton, named for Sir John Gorton in 2003.

Ms Gallagher said the government would seek to consult the Whitlam family at an appropriate time.

"He was a great national leader whether you liked his politics or not," she said. "People saw him as a great leader of the country and a reformer and change agent.