The Right Honourable Sir John Grey Gorton, GCMG, AC, CH (1911-2002) served as Australia’s 19th Prime Minister from 1968 to 1971. Gorton was born out of wedlock and his mother died when he was nine years old. Former Prime Minister Menzies called it ‘an unfortunate upbringing’. After boarding at schools in Sydney and Geelong, Gorton graduated from Oxford University in 1935. With his American wife Bettina, née Brown, he took up his father’s orange orchard near Kerang in northern Victoria, where they raised three children. Winning a Victorian Senate seat in 1949, Gorton’s lengthy portfolio responsibilities included serving as Minister for the Navy, Works, and Education and Science. The Liberal Party Room elected Gorton leader following Harold Holt’s disappearance and John McEwen’s transitional Prime Ministership. Gorton became the only Australian senator to assume the highest office. In a by-election shortly thereafter, he won Holt’s House of Representatives seat.
Intelligent, determined, straight-talking, unashamedly egalitarian, Gorton was a controversial and progressive leader. He wanted the nation, and his party, to develop a more independently Australian culture and way of thinking. Gorton served in the Royal Australian Airforce in WWII. He suffered severe injuries in a crash landing at Bintan Island, Indonesia; his rescue ship was torpedoed. In 1946, giving a speech at Mystic Park to other returned service personnel, he defined his political credo: to create ‘a world in which meanness and poverty, tyranny and hate, have no existence’. Gorton’s national rather than state-based policy perspective evolved Commonwealth powers, social services, resource protection and external defence commitments. Self-described as ‘Australian to the boot-heels’, Gorton was always happy to say hello and stop for a chat while out walking his beloved collie-kelpie Suzie Q. In 1993, a decade after Bettina’s death, he married Nancy Home.
For more information on the Sir John Gorton sculpture, click here.
Acknowledgement of Country
Our work is on the land of the Ngunnawal People, Ngunnawal Country. We pay our respects to their Elders – past, present and emerging.