The ACT has continued its tradition of naming suburbs after former Prime Ministers, with the first sod turned on a new suburb in the Molonglo Valley named in honour of former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
Joined by Mr Whitlam’s daughter Catherine Dovey, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development Yvette Berry turned the first sod at Whitlam on Monday morning (1 July), officially marking the beginning of construction on Canberra’s newest suburb.
Whitlam will be the 17th suburb named after a prime minister, following in the footsteps of Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid, Fisher, Cook, Hughes, Bruce, Scullin, Lyons, Page, Curtin, Fadden, Forde, Chifley and Holt.
With the first land release planned for 2020 and an expected 600 homes built in the suburb by the end of 2021, Whitlam will include a local public primary school, shopping centre and 2100 homes in total.
Nearly four years since the Chief Minister announced the government’s intention to name the suburb Whitlam, Ms Berry said the naming of the suburb was fitting to commemorate the only Prime Minister that grew up in the ACT.
“I cannot imagine a better place for people to be able to say, ‘Wow, I’m going home to Whitlam’,” Ms Berry said. “I think that is a really powerful message and a beautiful place to live.
“I think this will be more than just a suburb for the 2100 homes that will be here but also a suburb that Canberrans will proudly call a Canberra suburb. I think we will all call Whitlam our own and I think there will be a fierce competition about which side of the river it lies on.
“Gough Whitlam was a one-of-a-kind person and Prime Minister, who helped Australia re-think the way we approach ideas relating to inequality and social justice. This is the perfect memory to his work and his life and this city as well.”
Ms Berry also assured that mature trees have been retained where possible and many additional trees will be planted. Excess rock from the development will be stockpiled for the ACT Parks and Conservation Service and be used as habitat restoration along the Molonglo River for the vulnerable Pink-Tailed Worm-Lizard.
Ms Dovey said naming the suburb in her late father’s memory was important for her family’s legacy.
“I am pretty thrilled. I think it is nice to have the name in perpetuity in a place where he grew up unlike any previous Prime Minister as far as I am aware,” Ms Dovey said.
“I think it also helps acknowledge the contribution his own father made to Canberra when the family moved here in 1927 when Canberra was much like this – plots of earth.”