The Dismissal: The Sacking of the Whitlam Government

The 1970s were a period of great change and reform. Gough Whitlam’s Labor government was elected after 23 years of coalition government and promises of great reform. While it delivered the reforms promised, it created huge opposition from business and conservatives and, at times, showed a clumsiness and lack of control that would attract criticism. This course looks at the reasons for the dismissal with a particular look at the role of the Governor General, the Chief Justice, the Crown, Whitlam and his government and the Opposition leader.

This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom. Enrolling students need to ensure they have an email, a reliable internet connection, microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


  • Anything by Gough Whitlam, John Kerr, Paul Kelly or Jenny Hocking


  • The Labor government of Gough Whitlam. The first lesson looks at the reasons why Whitlam was elected and what the government did to attract the wrath of Malcolm Fraser and John Kerr.
  • The dismissal itself. How did it happen? Who orchestrated it? This is a blow-by-blow look at those days and weeks that led to the dismissal of the Whitlam government
  • The constitutional and political consequences. How has this time in Australian history affected the nation and politics? We look at the outrage on one side and the sense of righteous action on the other. Why does this event, 45 years later, still generate so much debate and emotion?


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Understand the nature of the Australian political scene and the Australian constitution that allowed the dismissal to occur.
  2. Understand the constitutional issues at stake in this event.
  3. Make some judgements about the roles played by the participants.
  4. Make some judgement on the constitutional and ;political consequences of the dismissal, which are still being played out today.

This course has no current classes. Please join the waiting list by clicking .