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Margaret Whitlam
, 2005

by Sahlan Hayes

type C photograph (sheet: 60.0 cm x 79.0 cm, image: 47.4 cm x 70.0 cm)

Margaret Whitlam AO (1919-2012), social worker and writer, swam in the 1938 Empire Games before marrying Gough Whitlam in 1942. The following year she began work at the Family Welfare Bureau, and in 1948 she graduated with a social work degree from Sydney University. When Gough Whitlam became the Member for Werriwa in 1952, Margaret assumed many duties in his electorate; from 1964 to 1967 she also served as a hospital social worker. An active member of the Labor Party Women's Conference, just after her husband became Prime Minister in 1972 she entertained Germaine Greer at the Lodge. During Whitlam's term in office Margaret maintained a high profile as a speaker and columnist, publishing My Day in 1973. Listed as a National Living Treasure, late in life she served on a host of arts, welfare and educational committees, and wrote of her extensive overseas travels in My Other World (2001). Margaret died shortly before the Whitlams' seventieth wedding anniversary.

This portrait, taken on the rooftop terrace of the Whitlams' Sydney apartment block, won the Nikon Walkley Photographic Portrait Award for 2005.

Sahlan Hayes was born in the United Kingdom and lived with his family in the USA and New Zealand before settling in Australia. After working as a cadet photographer in Sydney for the Australian in the late 1980s, he returned to England in 1991 to work freelance. Since 1994, he has been a full-time photographer with the Sydney Morning Herald, undertaking news, features and portraiture assignments. Apart from his portrait photographs of many prominent Australian and international figures, he has documented the refugee crisis in Croatia during the war, the northern migration of humpback whales along the east coast of NSW and the discovery of prehistoric human remains in Flores, Indonesia.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2006
Accession number: 2006.42