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Memento : Issue 36
16 NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA He sent the official documents to Gough who, along with the other troops, had also been sent the notes prepared by Evatt for senators prior to debate on the Bill. However, agitation among the troops was not encouraged and when the new Leader of the Opposition, RG Menzies, sought to address the troops as part of his campaign against the referendum, his request was rejected by the Acting Prime Minister Frank Forde, who wrote that 'it has been decided that no addresses by any person to troops in camp will be permitted.' This ban, however, did not deter the troops -- the Army's journal Salt gave the referendum extensive coverage with a discussion of both the 'Yes' and 'No' case -- nor did it deter Whitlam. He campaigned strongly for a yes vote among his Squadron 13 members at Gove, NT, where they were now stationed, holding meetings at night when the squadron was not out flying. The referendum, put to the Australian people in August 1944, was carried in just two states and failed to gain majority support nationally, supported by barely 46 percent of voters. Squadron 13 recorded one of the highest yes votes, as Whitlam recalls: 'The CO [Commanding Officer] might even have voted for it! ... the armed forces realised how much the federal government had been able to do during the war ... I realised that and it had a great deal to do with my thinking.' The failure of the referendum was a turning point for the future prime minister. New connections Before serving in the RAAF, Whitlam had met no Indigenous Australians, but stationed at Cooktown, Qld, and Gove, NT, he witnessed discrimination for the first time. He was struck by the extent to which the conditions of Aboriginal people in these remote areas differed from those on the fringes of the major cities. During its six months based at the Yirrkala Mission at Gove, Squadron 13 had close contact with the Aboriginal people. Whitlam recalls that, 'We intruders observed how best to catch fish to supplement our rations.' It was also at Yirrkala that Whitlam first met the prominent Yunupingu family, whose members would play a crucial role in land rights campaigns over the next 25 years. Whitlam was greeted at the Gove airstrip by Munggurawuy Yunupingu, holding in his arms his young son, who was the same age as Whitlam's own newborn son, Antony. Whitlam returned to Sydney on leave on 3 July 1945 and, on the death of John Curtin just two days later, applied to join the Labor Party. On 8 August 1945 the Darlinghurst Branch of the Australian Labor Party issued a membership ticket to 'Gough Whitlam: student'. On 15 August 1945 the new Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley announced the end of the war against Japan. After five years in uniform, Gough Whitlam ended his war service on 17 October 1945 and returned home. Professor Jenny Hocking's biography Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History (Melbourne University Press/ Miegunyah) was launched by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in November 2008. Professor Hocking, with research assistant Dr Natasha Campo, is continuing work on a major biographical study of Gough Whitlam at the National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University. The project is supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant with partner organisations, the National Archives of Australia and the National Library of Australia. NAA: M155, B34 [left] Margaret and Gough Whitlam with their children, from left: Nicholas, Stephen, Catherine and Antony, taken at Catherine's christening.