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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3627


Mr HUSIC (ChifleyGovernment Whip) (17:10): I wanted to start with a quote direct from Margaret Whitlam:

Sneaked in a game of golf this morning and in the afternoon carried on like a suburban housewife in old surroundings. It is a joy to put a load of washing out on a familiar clothesline, to note the growth of the mulberry tree, and to listen to all the talkback radio programs while doing it.

That is a quote taken from a trip back to Cabramatta, in May 1973. I rely upon that quote because probably more than anything else the reason people have such fond memories of Margaret Whitlam is that they recognised her sense of humanity. Despite all the things she would have seen in the sweep of her life, and being involved in some of the most tumultuous events of our time, she still celebrated her own humanity and kept in touch with those around her. As a Western Sydney MP, I know it is why the Whitlams are held in such high regard across our region.

The member for McMahon, the minister for immigration, reflected on some of the things that had been achieved by the Whitlam government, particularly, for example, bringing sewerage to the homes of Western Sydney. This was a big issue for people who were concerned about sanitation and the quality of life and wanted to see things that had been taken for granted elsewhere brought out into Western Sydney.

Margaret Whitlam continued working, even leading up to Gough Whitlam's election as Prime Minister, as a social worker at Parramatta District Hospital between 1964 and 1967. She then said:

I like the work. It was a very good course then because it made you know your community, know what was lacking in the community and know where to find aid.

This was said during an interview with Susan Mitchell, contained in the work The Matriarchs, back in 1987. Again, she dedicated her time to helping the people of Western Sydney and patiently tending to the needs of people who were in need of support. The work they did was reflective of a commitment to Western Sydney. The Whitlams had moved out west and stayed out west for many years. That is something that should be recognised. It has rightly been celebrated in this place.

A number of members of parliament have spoken at great length about her achievements. Many things have been said about a remarkable woman and many reflections have been made about her role as the wife of a Prime Minister and a person steeped in the experience of those times.

My final reflection is one that had a much more powerful impact on me. It was the fact that a couple met in an embrace of a dance or two in the late 1930s and through golden days and days that had less gleam to them they maintained a deep bond, a bond of love. While that physical bond has been released, I and many others, especially at a time where relationships seem a lot more fleeting, feel the break of that connection very deeply. The dance-floor embrace may be a thing of memory now but the warmth of that relationship is what I honour in this place today. To the Whitlam family I pass on the deepest condolences of the people I represent in Western Sydney. I wish them all the best and I celebrate the life of a truly remarkable Australian.