Notable deaths of 2014

Gough Whitlam, with wife Margaret

Gough Whitlam, with wife Margaret

His election triumph in 1972 sparked wide-ranging social policy changes after 23 years of coalition rule. Family law reforms, the founding of Medibank and free higher education were among his best-known achievements. But his prime ministership was marred by party ill-discipline and began to decline when Labor failed to win a majority in the Senate following a double-dissolution election. He fell out with ministers and faced several scandals. The most damaging was the Loans Affair, which formed the basis for Malcolm Fraser’s ‘‘reprehensible circumstances’’ justification for blocking Senate supply. Whitlam was sacked by governor-general John Kerr on Remembrance Day 1975. His ‘‘Kerr’s Cur’’ and ‘‘maintain your rage’’ speech on the steps of parliament house that day is etched into the nation’s memory. He remained Labor leader until 1977 and became Australia’s longest-living prime minister.

Phillip Hughes

Phillip Hughes

His sudden death brought cricket to its knees. The batsman died from brain injuries days after being hit in the neck by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield match. His death touched people around the world. Australian captain Michael Clarke, especially public with his sorrow, was a pallbearer at the funeral in Hughes’s home town of Macksville, NSW. Hughes made his first-class debut for NSW at 18 and became the youngest cricketer to score a century in a Sheffield Shield final. But appearances in the Test side were limited by inconsistency. He was tipped by many to be on the verge of another Test recall when he died. He will forever be 63 not out.

Doc Neeson

Doc Neeson

As lead singer of The Angels, Neeson came to embody a golden era of Australian live music. He emigrated with his family from Belfast as a teen, completed military service in Papua New Guinea, and started the Moonshine Jug and String Band with brothers John and Rick Brewster. The band was offered a record deal but turned it down to start the The Keystone Angels. They signed with Albert Studios in 1975, changed their name to The Angels and released hit single Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again the following year. Neeson was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012 and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2013.

Charlotte Dawson

Charlotte Dawson

Dawson became a spokeswoman for the bullied and sick and was open about her long history with depression. The New Zealand-born model publicly condemned abuse on social media, which she said contributed to her 2012 suicide attempt. Her comments only attracted more negative attention but Dawson would not be silenced and stepped up her lobbying against Twitter trolls. She became an outspoken campaigner for cancer treatment funding before taking her own life in her Sydney home.

Peter Sculthorpe

Peter Sculthorpe

The classical composer changed the Australian music landscape during a six-decade career. He was born in Tasmania but studied in postwar London before joining the University of Sydney’s music department in the early 1960s. His Sun Music series has been singled out as the dawning of an Australian sound in classical music. His catalogue consisted of more than 350 pieces ranging from solos to orchestral works and opera. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1990 and became one of the National Trust’s living treasures in 1997. He died after a long illness.

Stella Young

Stella Young

Young fought against the infantilisation of the disabled and argued that social conditions, rather than physical ailments, hindered them. The writer and comedian, born with a genetic defect that caused her bones to break easily, began a life of advocacy at 14. She was known for her raw honesty and called herself a ‘‘crip’’, to the horror of some. Young was a prominent campaigner for the national disability insurance scheme and was a member of numerous government advisory councils in Victoria. She was a journalist for a number of media organisations and died unexpectedly in Melbourne.

Wendy Hughes

Wendy Hughes

Loved for her work as Kate Ferrari on the long-running series State Coroner, Hughes was one of the country’s best-known actors. She got her start during a renaissance of the nation’s film and TV industry in the 1970s and was an on-screen regular by the end of the decade. Hughes won an AFI best actress award in 1983 for her leading role in Careful, He Might Hear You, and Logie awards in 1977 and 1984 for supporting roles. She will be remembered for her work in The Man From Snowy River, My Brilliant Career and Newsfront. She died from cancer.

Neville Wran

Neville Wran

The worldly lawyer from working-class Balmain dominated NSW politics for a decade. His success was built on ruthlessness, authority and an instinct for what the voter wanted. He never lost an election and resigned to the surprise of his party in 1986. Wran left parliament having reformed the upper house, expanded national parks, strengthened consumer protection, introduced a cautious system of Aboriginal land rights and brought in anti-discrimination laws. He suffered dementia in his later years and died after two years in special care.

Sir Jack Brabham

Sir Jack Brabham

Brabham’s third Formula One world title made him the only driver to win in a car of his own making. Sir Jack Brabham, from NSW but a long-time Queenslander, was a giant in his sport. He took out world titles in 1959, 1960 and 1966. He pushed his car, which had run out of fuel, over the finish line for his first championship win. The former Australian of the year retired in 1970 and was knighted eight years later. He died peacefully in his Gold Coast home.

Brian Harradine

Brian Harradine

The pro-life senator with family values shunned publicity and scorned the politics of personality. He held his seat for 30 years - a record for an independent. Once a Labor member, he left the party amid factional infighting. He was known as a ruthless and cunning negotiator and won Tasmania more than its fair share of the Howard government’s Telstra sell-off. He fervently opposed embryo research, pornography and the GST. Harradine suffered a stroke in 2005 and retired at the end of his term. He died after a long illness. AAP 

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