Jenny Hocking discusses Gough Whitlam, the Dismissal and the Palace Letters

Does Australia have a right to know? Jenny Hocking discusses the dismissal of Gough Whitlam and the case to release the Palace letters.

On 11 November 1975 the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, sacked the democratically elected Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam. Yet remarkably, more than four decades later, critical historical documents about the dismissal remain hidden from us, under the embargo of the Queen. The secret ‘Palace letters’, between the Governor-General and the Queen regarding the dismissal, are held in the National Archives of Australia in Canberra and closed to the Australian public. We cannot see the letters until the Queen tells us we can.

In December 2016, Professor Jenny Hocking initiated a Federal Court action against the National Archives of Australia, seeking the release of these historic ‘Palace letters’. The legal action is supported by a crowd-funding campaign through Chuffed with a legal team working on a pro bono basis led by senior barristers Antony Whitlam QC at trial and Bret Walker SC at the Appeal with Tom Brennan, instructed by Corrs Chambers Westgarth. The federal Attorney-General has joined the Archives in contesting the case and the government has spent close to a million dollars fighting access to the letters and protecting their continued secrecy. The Palace letters case has gone all the way to the High Court of Australia, and in February 2020 the full bench of the High Court heard the case on appeal, and the decision is currently pending.

Renowned biographer and academic and Distinguished Fellow of the Whitlam Institute, Professor Jenny Hocking will discuss the significance of the Palace letters to the history of the dismissal, the role of the Queen, and the latest developments in the landmark ‘Palace letters’ case seeking their release.

This is a very important and compelling issue for all interested in Australia's democratic past, present and future.

Drinks and light refreshments will be served after the event. Numbers are strictly limited.

This event takes place on a Whitlam Institute Open Day. As a result, our historical home The Female Orphan School will also be open to be explored, with our wonderful volunteers available to take you on a tour of what is Australia’s oldest three-storey building.

In addition, our gallery spaces including the Margaret Whitlam Galleries which is currently hosting Marriage: Love and Law and our ongoing exhibition A Changing Australia: The Time of Gough Whitlam will also be open. Both exhibitions and tours of the building are available from 11am.




Whitlam Institute at the Female Orphan School
Building EZ, Parramatta South Campus of Western Sydney University, Cnr Victoria Rd and James Ruse Dr, Rydalmere

How much

Free Event


Whitlam Institute
(02) 9685 9312