From left to right: Mr. G Bryant, M.H.R., Senior Vice President of FCAATSI; Mrs. Faith Bandler, N.S.W Secretary; Mr. H. Holt, Prime Minister; Pastor D. Nicholls, Field Officer of Aborigines Advancement League; Mr. H Penrith, Executive Member of Council; Mrs. W.L. Bransor, S.A. Aborigines Advancement League; and Mr. W.C. Wentworth, M.H.R. (Rights and advancement, May -June 1967, vol 9, cover, La Trobe Collection, State Library Victoria)
The achievements of the Whitlam Government were not the work of one man alone, but of a team of ministers.
32 men served in the Whitlam Government between 1972 and 1975.
The unusually large number of ministries held by Gough Whitlam and Lance Barnard is explained by the fact that for the first two weeks of the Whitlam Government, the two men formed a ministry of two, known as the ‘duumvirate’.
During this time the two enacted as much significant reform as possible that did not require legislation.
When the election results of every seat were finalised, the full ministry of 27 ministers was then elected by the Labor Party caucus on December 18th, 1972.
Caucus member Gil Duthie described the meeting like this: “There were no words to describe faithfully how we all felt…The hand-shaking, the back-slapping the cries of “Good on yer mate”, turned the party room into bedlam – a bedlam of excited voices”.
Fred Daly, who was appointed Minister for Services and Property commented “I wouldn’t care if he’d made me Canberra dog-catcher. As long as I’m in”.
The Whitlam Government was unique in that all of its ministers were members of the cabinet.
Gordon Bryant – Minister for Aboriginal Affairs – Minister for the Capital Territory
Gordon Munro Bryant was born on 3 August 1914 in Lismore, Victoria and obtained tertiary qualifications at Melbourne Teachers’ College and the University of Melbourne.
He taught in primary and secondary schools from 1935 to 1955. In 1934 Bryant joined the Citizens’ Military Force. During World War II he was on full-time duty with the CMF and AIF from December 1941 to October 1946. He served in the Army in Northern Australia, then went to Indonesia with the 7th Division as a member of the 2/33rd Australian Infantry Battalion AIF. Between 1954 and 1961 he held the rank of Captain Staff Officer in the CMF, after which he retired with the Efficiency Decoration.
He continued to take an active interest in defence and ex-service affairs through the Naval and Military Club and the RSL. He was one of the first active opponents of Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War and closely monitored the affairs of East Timor.
Bryant first stood for Parliament in 1951 for the seat of Deakin, and again in 1954 – both times unsuccessful. In 1955 he was elected to the House of Representatives for Wills, Victoria (ALP), a seat he held until 1980. He was appointed as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs from 19 December 1972 to 9 October 1973, then as Minister for the Capital Territory from 9 October 1973 to 11 November 1975.
For a short time, from 9 October 1973 to 12 November 1973, he acted as Minister for Repatriation.
Among the numerous Parliamentary committees on which Bryant served were: Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Committee Enquiring into the Grievances of the People of Yirrkala, Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights, Committee on Environment and Conservation and the Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. In 1964 Bryant was Deputy Leader of the Australian Delegation to the 53rd Annual Conference of the Interparliamentary Union, Copenhagen.
He was a member of the Interparliamentary Union Council Meeting in Lucerne, 1964 and Canberra, 1966. As a member of the ALP, Bryant was the Party’s first delegate to the Socialist International at Brussels in September 1964. In 1978 he was a delegate to the 33rd United Nations General Assembly. Bryant’s involvement in Aboriginal issues led him to become President of the Aborigines Advancement League in Victoria from its inception in 1957 to 1964, and Senior Vice-President of the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement (later Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders) from 1957 to 1973.
Among his chief concerns were the rights of Aborigines in Arnhem Land during mining development. The national campaign for the 1967 Referendum on Aboriginal powers was conducted from his office. As well as being a member of the National Library Council from 1976 to 1980, Bryant had a lifelong interest in education from the days of his early teaching career. He was Chairman of the Northern Metropolitan Regional Board of TAFE and Associate Fellow of the La Trobe University. Other educational councils on which he served were the Newlands High School, the Batman Automotive College and the Pascoe Vale High School. On 5 December 1942 Bryant married Patricia Jean Hilton Grant. They had two sons, Robin and Linton. Bryant died in Melbourne on 14 January 1991, survived by his wife, sons and several grandchildren.
Gordon Munro Bryant (1914-91) was a school teacher and Labor member of the House of Representatives (1955-80).
He presided (1957-64) over the Aborigines Advancement League (Victoria) and campaigned for the ‘yes’ vote in the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal citizenship.
As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (1972-73), he argued that Indigenous Australians must have autonomy and a sense of control over their destiny.
Events 27 MAY 1967 ’67 Referendum
The ‘67 Referendum poses two questions: the first seeks to alter the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The second question asks whether two references in the Australian Constitution which discriminate against Aboriginal people should be removed.
This question receives an unprecedented 90 per cent ‘yes’ vote, giving the parliament the power to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the federal Census and to make special laws for Aboriginal Australians.
It is a landmark referendum in the history of Indigenous affairs, and marks the success of a ten year campaign launched in 1957 at the Sydney Town Hall.
The Huge Town Hall meeting was organised by Aboriginal activists including Jessie Street, Faith Bandler, Gordon Bryantand Pearl Gibbs.