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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Gough and John

1981
Peter van der Veer

selenium toned gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 40.6 cm x 50.5 cm, image: 30.6 cm x 45.1 cm)

Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC (1916-2014) and Sir John Kerr AK KCMG LSt J PC GCVO QC (1914-1991) were both lawyers. Kerr, son of a Balmain boilermaker, was educated at the academically selective Fort Street Boys’ High and the University of Sydney, where he achieved first class honours and a University Medal. Admitted to the bar in 1938, he reached the rank of colonel during the war. By 1964 he was both President of the Bar Association and President of the Law Council of Australia. In 1972 he became chief justice of New South Wales, but in 1974, just after he was knighted, he succeeded Paul Hasluck as governor-general. Upon his appointment, Opposition Leader Billy Snedden remarked that it was ‘the culmination of a brilliant career for an able, warm-hearted man’. On 11 November 1975 Kerr, having consulted the chief justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, dismissed Whitlam and appointed Malcolm Fraser caretaker prime minister. From the steps of Parliament House, Whitlam cried ‘Ladies and gentlemen, well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the governor-general!’, and predicted that Malcolm Fraser would go down in history as ‘Kerr’s cur’. At a book launch, Whitlam stands before Clifton Pugh’s portrait of Kerr, painted as the 1975 crisis developed.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005
© Peter van der Veer

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Peter van der Veer

Hon. Gough Whitlam AC QC (age 65 in 1981)

Sir John Kerr AK KCMG LSt J PC GCVO QC (age 67 in 1981)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari

A handful of sand

Magazine article by Ellen Kent, 2007

Ellen Kent examines the portrait of Vincent Lingiari and Prime Minister Gough Whitlam taken by photographer Mervyn Bishop.

Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke

Primed

Some Prime Ministers

Previous exhibition, 2019

Seventeen of Australia’s thirty prime ministers to date are represented in the contrasting sizes, moods and mediums of these portraits.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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