I’m a Citizen for Democracy


Museum of Australian Democracy collection

Following the dismissal of the Whitlam government on 11 November 1975, the Australian community was polarised. Many on the conservative side of politics welcomed the subsequent election of the Fraser government, but others decried it as unconstitutional or unjust. Though many of those protesting were Whitlam’s supporters, not all were. Citizens for Democracy was a movement formed by people across the political spectrum to lobby for constitutional and political change.

On 20 September 1976, a large crowd gathered for a public meeting at the Sydney Town Hall. Called ‘Kerr and the Consequences’, it drew together people from various sectors of public life to discuss reform in the wake of the Dismissal. The meeting was organised by prominent academic Donald Horne and left-wing novelist Frank Hardy. Speakers included historian Manning Clark, lawyer Pat O’Shane, Labor frontbencher Jim McClelland, cartoonist Bruce Petty and future NSW premier and federal foreign minister Bob Carr. Also in attendance was Don Chipp, a former Liberal minister who less than a year later would form the Australian Democrats.

After the meeting, Citizens for Democracy groups appeared in other cities. They organised a national day of peaceful protest for 11 November 1976 to mark one year since the Dismissal. Following that event, the groups largely disappeared.