Thanks, Gough, for giving us all a chance at university

This is utter rubbish: The usual Leftist garbage. It was Menzies who made universities open to all -- if you had the ability. And it was a Labor government that ditched Gough's scheme

The Commonwealth scholarship scheme set up by Menzies made the reasonable assumption that only the top third of high school graduates would do well at university and gave that subset both a living allowance and free tuition at university. I myself got a Commonwealth scholarship -- and I too come from a poor working class background. And I ended up with a Ph.D.

Whitlam on the other hand made university "free" to all -- a policy so expensive and wasteful that it was abandoned by the next Labor government -- under Bob Hawke. Hawke reintroduced fees and gave loans instead of grants.

I think the Menzies scheme was by far the most fair, generous and effective of the three systems. The expansion of university education beyond the top third has simply led to lower standards and a mass of graduates who are no more employable than they would be without a degree. The unemployed graduate was virtually unknown in my day. These days it is common. And a lot of the employed ones are working at McDonald's

So I was able to cruise through university despite having no rich father (and no support of any kind from him at all). My son, by contrast, also cruised -- but only because I was readily able to pay for his upkeep and his fees -- which I did. So which system was fairer to the poor?

Note that I appear to be the same age as the writer below, Geoff Cooper, so he had the same opportunities that I did.

Gough Whitlam's visionary tertiary education scheme opened up doors for many.

Officially I am two years too old to be classed as a member of the baby boomer generation but I was one of the many fortunate people whose life was absolutely changed through the policies of former prime minister Gough Whitlam, Australia's greatest ever visionary.

As a working-class kid from the then very poor working-class suburb of Yarraville, it was beyond my wildest dreams to even consider having a tertiary education.

Even completing secondary education to sixth form (year 12) was not on my radar.

My old alma mater, Footscray Tech, only went to year 10 and if you lived anywhere west of the Yarra, your biggest decision after completing secondary school was to join the laudable but limited careers of carpentry, plumbing or other of the building trades. Whitlam changed all that.

Never has one man had such an impact on our nation in such a short time. No-fault divorce, universal health insurance, the first real recognition of indigenous people, a major step towards equal rights for women and access to justice for all, to list just a few of his major achievements.

But for me and many thousands like me, it was his creation of TEAS, the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, that changed my life and I believe allowed many of us to add so much more to our communities because of it.

At the ripe old age of 31 I was able to undertake what previously had been denied me; I gained entrance to Monash University. The rush of mature-age students into tertiary education in the late '70s indicated just how many of us had missed out on an education during the previous 23 years of conservative rule.

The consequence of Whitlam's education policy went well beyond just personal improvement.

Education has far greater impact for society than just leading people into professions or occupations, it often rounds them off as active members of their community and society gains because of this.

I had followed the usual course of the "Westie" masses and become a carpenter, then moved into teaching as a trade teacher. Thanks to Gough, my degree allowed me to teach history and politics in high schools, where I like to think I was able to influence many of the young charges under my care to think about matters political. (Unbiased, of course.)

Higher education also gave me the confidence and knowledge to participate in local government and play roles in other community activities throughout my life.

Forget the Khemlani affair and Rex Connor's delusional plans to run a gas pipeline across Australia, the fact that our country was dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century is something that all Australians should be grateful for.

Thirty-seven years on, today's modern Australia is a direct result of the Whitlam years.

Happy birthday, Gough, and so many thanks for giving me and many of my generation a chance at life that previously had only been the realm of the rich.


1 comment:

  1. "Thirty-seven years on, today's modern Australia is a direct result of the Whitlam years."

    I don't think the author has the same interpretation of this as I do.


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