Margaret Whitlam was a major national figure in her own right, and entirely deserving in her own right, of the formal recognition of this Parliament.
While inseparable in the Australian public’s mind, imagination and affection from one of Australia’s great Prime Ministers, Gough Whitlam, over the last 35 years, Margaret Whitlam’s extraordinary individual contribution to the face of modern Australia has become a matter of agreed historical record – and for many decades now, one that has long transcended the political divide.
Margaret Whitlam’s public life was therefore not the appendage of someone else’s.
It was her own life - an extraordinary life, and a life lived to the full.
She was a strong, independent voice for the full and equal role of women in modern Australia.
She was an early, strong and independent voice for indigenous Australians.
And a strong and independent voice for the role of the arts and artists in Australia’s national life.
She was driven by the deepest principles of social justice.
Driven also by an even deeper love for Australia.
At a personal level, Margaret was warm, generous, blessed with a truly wicked sense of humour, and always a source of encouragement for others in public life.
She was all these things to my wife, Therese – and it is for this particular reason that I also wanted briefly to speak in this condolence motion today.
There were many tears in our household over the weekend, as both Therese and Jessica saw Margaret as an inspiration, and were honoured to call her a friend.
Back in 2007, Therese asked Margaret for some advice when she came round to the Lodge for afternoon tea – Margaret’s simple, encouraging reply was “just be yourself darling and you’ll do beautifully”.
Margaret became something of a soul mate for Therese in the years since then, and she has asked if I could thank publically the family for sharing Margaret with her over this time.
Margaret Whitlam – a truly remarkable Australian life. A public life that is the stuff of inspiration.
A private person who in her 80s and 90s still took time for others.
And we loved her dearly.