Bob Wilson’s song, When Whitlam took his turn at the wheel, is the 2022 recipient of the Alistair Hulett Songs for Social Justice Award.
The award was presented at the closing concert at the National Folk Festival in Canberra on Easter Monday. Bob was unable to attend so deputised Ross Clark to accept the award on his behalf. The concert was live streamed to a large audience to raise money for the UNHCR in Ukraine.
We affectionately refer to the song as “Whitlam”, a summary of the many social policies and new laws enacted by Gough Whitlam in the first months of his election on December 2, 1972.
Whitlam introduced free healthcare and free tertiary education, abolished conscription and took the last of our troops out of Vietnam. Whitlam introduced a new Family Law act; no fault divorce and an associated single parent’s pension which made it possible for people to leave bad marriages. He abolished capital punishment, started drafting land rights for indigenous Australians and, as the song says, was the first PM to lavish money on the arts.
Bob wrote the song late last year after realising there is a whole generation in Australia who probably take these social initiatives for granted.
Listen to the song here: https://thegoodwills.bandcamp.com/track/when-whitlam-took-his-turn-at-the-wheel
The Alistair Hulett award is now in its 12th year. It was started in 2011 after the Scots-born Australian songwriter died in 2010. A fund was established to perpetuate an annual event where songwriters could submit works which fit the theme of social justice. Previous recipients include two other Queenslanders – Paddy McHugh (2015) and Karen Law (2020 in a dead-heat with Newcastle songwriter John Sutton).
The song was recorded at Restless Music studios in Stanthorpe by Roger Ilott. Musicians on the track include Roger (banjo and mandolin) his brother Tony (bass), Laurel Wilson (vocals), Bob Wilson (guitar and vocals) and Mal Webb (brass).
As per the terms of the ‘grant’ which comes with the award, Bob is planning a limited release CD by The Goodwills which will contain “Whitlam” and some of our more recent songs. The award brief is to ‘disseminate the song” so you may well see sponsored Facebook posts and other promotions in the following months.
If you happen to be at Brisbane’s acoustic music venue, The Bug, on May 24 (New Farm Bowls Club), we’ll sing the song for you.