Gough Whitlam's vision and the establishment of the University of Western Sydney

When Gough Whitlam first entered parliament in 1952 as the MP for the south-western Sydney seat of Werriwa, there was not a single high school in his electorate. Despite the summer heat there were few public swimming pools, and significantly, much of Western Sydney (west of Woodville Road) was not connected to the sewer.

The concept of a University in the West was repeatedly shelved in order to cater for booming populations closer to the east. University participation rates in the western suburbs were the lowest in the country, limiting generations of people from many of the benefits most Australians took for granted.

A new paper by historian Dr Mark Hutchinson, released by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney, examines the substantial influence Gough Whitlam had on the establishment of the University.

"Dr Hutchinson delicately weaves a tapestry that draws together the modern University of Western Sydney, Gough's philosophical roots and his vision for 'liberating the talents and uplifting the horizons of the Australian people': none more so than his constituents across Sydney's greater west," says Eric Sidoti, Director of the Whitlam Institute.

"This paper leaves you with the renewed sense that the great, enduring reforms are those built on firm grounds."

Professor Janice Reid AM, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney says that the development of the university has been a radical force for change in the West, something that is worth reflecting on as the university moves towards the celebration of its 25th anniversary.

"The University of Western Sydney began modestly on 1 January 1989, and now has over 40 000 students spread across 6 campuses and over 2500 staff," says Professor Reid.

"Many of our students are the first in their families to attend University. We find again and again that there is a hunger for opportunity and knowledge, and we are very privileged to be able to foster that journey in our students."

"We are forever indebted to Gough Whitlam, the great champion of the Western suburbs, for his vision, enthusiasm and faith in this dynamic region."

Dr Mark Hutchinson's paper is the first in a new series called 'The Whitlam Legacy,' which have been commissioned by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney to offer contemporary insights on matters of public interest inspired by Gough Whitlam's public life and the legacy of the Whitlam Government.

The Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney is a leading national centre for the dialogue and debate on public policy - it is a non aligned think-tank for the people, working to ignite debate, strengthen discussion and enrich policy development in Australia.



 12 December 2011 

Contact: Amy Sambrooke, Whitlam Institute Communications Coordinator

a.sambrooke@uws.edu.au, (02) 9685 9072, 0450 920 986