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Harold Holt
, 1969

by Victor Greenhalgh

cast bronze on granite base (including base: 44.5 cm x 22 cm depth 35.5 cm)

Harold Holt CH (1908–1967) was Liberal Prime Minister of Australia from January 1966 to December 1967. Having won his first seat in Parliament in 1935, he became a minister in 1939; he was on the government benches for some 24 years. In 1958, having held the portfolios of Immigration and then of Labour and National Service, he became Treasurer. By the time Holt succeeded Robert Menzies as prime minister, Menzies had been at the helm for 17 years. While Menzies had focused on maintaining smooth relations with England, in October 1966 Holt and his famously glamorous wife Zara played host to the first American president to visit Australia, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and his wife Ladybird Johnson. The trip sparked major anti-war demonstrations. Holt had declared Australia’s willingness to go ‘all the way with LBJ’, but he himself died long before the war in Vietnam was over; on 17 December 1967 Holt went in for a swim off Cheviot Beach, Victoria, and never came out. President Johnson attended his memorial service.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Paul and Wendy Greenhalgh 1999
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 1999.11