Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Vale God Whitlam

Gough Whitlam is dead. Long live Gough Whitlam! Will there ever be such another?

I don’t remember the dismissal, but I clearly remember the election-night party that followed it in 1975. My family were great supporters of Gough (how could we not be?) so it was not a night for celebrations, for us anyway. But someone at the party was happy, and reckless enough to celebrate loudly, to gloat, to triumph while everyone around them grieved, mourned, raged. My step-father-to-be asked said individual whether they would like to step outside to discuss the subject of his behaviour—which was declined and, as I remember, we were left in peace.

Here is a photo of me taken less than two years later. Yes, that really is a Life Be in It t-shirt, but the knee guard is the thing to note. I am wearing that knee guard because—in a “look, no hands” moment—I tore the muscles, ligaments and tendons in my knee, cracked the knee-cap and split a leg bone lengthwise. Apparently, a Dr Hume—a knee specialist—was flown down from Queensland to sew the muscles, ligaments and tendons back together again and to put two pins in the bone to hold it all together again. The leg stopped growing for a while, and the pins worked loose and started grinding away at the underside of my knee-cap, but they were removed, the leg started growing again and I made a full recovery.

The point of mentioning this is that—at the time—my mother was a sole parent, a skint, single, supporting mother: and if it were not for God Whitlam, and the specialist medical care she and I received for free (thanks to Medicare), none of this would have been possible. Thanks to God Whitlam, I have two working legs of the same length. Both my brother and sister have straight and evenly-spaced teeth. We all got to vote at 18 (for Labor) and received a university education—most of it for free. I could go on, but all I really wanted to say was, thank you Gough.

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