The Whitlam Dismissal: 40 years on

40 years ago

“Well may we say God Save the Queen…” 40 years ago today, Gough Whitlam stood on the steps of Old Parliament House after being sacked by Sir John Kerr, the Governor General. Immediately following news of Malcolm Fraser being installed as caretaker Prime Minister, there were protests in Canberra, not far from where Whitlam was standing - and around Australia. It was an historical moment in Australian political history.

The Fryer Library’s political ephemera collection reveals some responses closer to campus. ‘Crush Kerr’s Coup’ printed t-shirts were made as part of a UQ staff and student campaign against the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. A tutor in External Studies recalls wearing a 'Crush Kerr’s Coup' t-shirt on the day of the Federal Elections in December 1975. The polling booth officers at Toowong threatened not to allow them to vote due to carrying political advertising into the polling booth.1



The newspaper Aunty Shadbolt's Spirit of Liberty was a privately funded publication, issued by a group of University of Queensland staff members and others in protest against press censorship of election issues. The November 1975 issue included an article 'Kerr's Curious Career or Why Sir John Goughed'.2

As well as supporters, Whitlam also had detractors on campus. In 1974, well before the dismissal, the group 'Students for a Change of Government', produced pamphlets campaigning against the policies of his government. Some slogans included: ‘Would you buy a house from this man?’, ‘Does Whitlam keep his word?’, 'Vote Labor: Three more years of broken promises.'


Read more about Fryer material relating to Gough Whitlam.


1. Explanatory note from donor, F3430, Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.

2. 'Kerr's Curious Career (or Why Sir John Goughed)', Aunty Shadbolt's Spirit of Liberty,

     27 Nov 1975, p. 3, FVF28, Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.


(Audio excerpted from ABC news announcement and comments, 11 Nov 1975)

Last updated:
11 January 2017