A slice of Australian history has been preserved after the late former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s family home sold for $1.15 million prior to auction to a group of Labor stalwarts who hope to turn it into a museum.
The original four-bedroom house at 32 Albert Street, Cabramatta, was Mr Whitlam’s home from 1956 until 1978, spanning his time as Australian Prime Minister and Labor Party leader.
The western Sydney property was bought on Friday by the Whitlam Heritage Home Fund after a long afternoon of negotiations, outbidding one other interested party and pushing the price well above the auction guide of $720,000 to $750,000.
The fund, a public company that was established with the sole purpose of acquiring the home and restoring it to its former glory, was formed by four Labor stalwarts: businessman and son of Gough and Margaret Whitlam Nick Whitlam, NSW Labor president Mark Lennon, Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey and former NSW Premier Barrie Unsworth.
Mr Unsworth, the fund’s chairman, said he was very satisfied with the result and the group hoped to raise funds from the community to cover the costs.
“This is not just a real estate deal. It is an important aspect of preserving Australian political history,” Mr Unsworth said. “More prime ministers’ houses should be acquired.”
Mr Unsworth said the group planned to have the home listed as a heritage site for its preservation in perpetuity.
“The Whitlam home in Albert Street, Cabramatta, played an important role in the journey of the Australian Labor Party, and its leader Gough Whitlam, to the historic victory in 1972, after 23 years in the political wilderness.”
“It is essential that the home be acquired and preserved as a publicly accessible venue to commemorate the Whitlam journey over 25 years, serving his constituents in the electorate of Werriwa on behalf of the Australian Labor Party.”
Mr Whitlam’s home played an important role in his legacy of improving life in cities and suburbs around Australia, including connecting western suburbs to sewerage in 1950s and 1960s.
“Raising a family in Sydney’s rapidly growing western suburbs gave Whitlam direct experience of consequences of poor investment in the infrastructure and services people needed in these new residential areas,” according to the Whitlam Institute.
The home could be offered up to the Commonwealth Government, the NSW Government or the Whitlam Institute to be used for educational and historical purposes, Mr Unsworth said.
The house sold through listing agent Manuel Roussakis of Ray White Canterbury and last traded for $154,000 in 1990, records show.
Mr Roussakis said there was a bidding war between the two buyers, who both wanted to preserve the home in its original condition.
“Barrie arrived at my office at 12.30pm … it ended up going until close to 4pm,” Mr Roussakis said. “The offer that came in at the end was well above the vendor’s expectations.
“Once [the price] got to a certain level, it was basically between the two buyers.”
The property attracted 97 groups throughout the auction campaign.