Whitlam 50 years on: art, democracy and the public good

It's been 50 years since Gough Whitlam formed government in December 1972; how does his legacy impact on Australian arts and cultural policy today?

‘Who can say that liberating the talents and uplifting the horizons of Australians is not a worthy charter for national leadership?’

In his eulogy for ‘this old man’, Bagaarrmugu and Guggu Yalanji man Noel Pearson described Gough Whitlam as ‘Australia’s greatest white elder’. Thanks to Whitlam’s ‘astonishing reform agenda’, said Pearson, ‘[t]he modern cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a technicolour butterfly from its long dormant chrysalis’.

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Esther Anatolitis is one of Australia’s most influential advocates for arts and culture. She is Editor of Meanjin, Honorary Associate Professor at RMIT School of Art, and a member of the National Gallery of Australia Governing Council. Esther has led arts and media organisations across all artforms, including Express Media, the Emerging Writers' Festival, Craft Victoria, SYN Media, Melbourne Fringe, Regional Arts Victoria and NAVA. Her consultancy Test Pattern focuses on creative practice, policy and precincts, as well as advocacy and public value. A hallmark of Esther’s arts leadership career has been her tenacious civic engagement, ensuring that artists’ voices and arts issues feature prominently on political agendas. This work has ranged from strategic development and private advice to public events, regional marginal seat forums, candidates’ debates, specialist workshops and Australia’s first advocacy training program for the arts. A prolific writer, Esther’s work regularly appears in literary journals, newspapers, and arts and design media, and she is a regular Arts Hub columnist. Her book Place, Practice, Politics is published by Spurbuch. Follow Esther on Twitter: @_esther.