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Gough Whitlam’s speech to the NSW Teachers of Modern Greek Association




This International Greek Language Day, we take a look back at a speech given by former Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, to the NSW Teachers of Modern Greek Association in 2005.

In the speech, titled ‘Philhellenes and Philologists,’ Whitlam sought to address two issues: (1) how important is the Greek language in Australia? and (2) how important is Greek civilisation to Australia?

To do this, Whitlam began to discuss his upbringing in Australia and how he developed an interest in ancient Greece and Greeks when he was a young boy.

Gough Whitlam.

“I was able to learn ancient Greek on Saturday mornings in 1933 and 1934 at the home of Leslie Holdsworth Allen… I shall be indebted to him for the rest of my life,” Whitlam, who has now passed away, said.

The former PM then touched on how “all Australians are involved with Greek words,” as many words in the English vocabulary have Greek roots.

Later, he turned to his political career and discussed how he always endeavoured to work with Greece and the local Greek community in Australia.

Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister of Australia.

“As the MP for Werriwa from 1952 to 1978 I had the opportunity and duty of serving the greatest variety of immigrants in Australia, including Greek Orthodox and Greek-speaking families from Greece and Cyprus,” Whitlam said.

From there, Whitlam also wasn’t afraid to touch on the Cypriot independence issue, as well as the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece from the British Museum.

In the end, he concluded that: “There can be no doubt that the Greek language is important in Australia and that Greek civilisation is important to Australia.”


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