Cate Blanchett made a powerful speech about gender at Gough Whitlam's memorial

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Sarah Oakes

Cate Blanchett.

Cate Blanchett. Photo: Peter Rae

The state memorial service for former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was held this morning and Cate Blanchett paid a powerful tribute to the impact Whitlam's policies had on Australian women.

Blanchett said that she wasn't even in school when Whitlam's prime ministership ended but the impact of his government and its choices had helped shape her career and personal life.

Her admission that she was the "beneficiary of free tertiary education" was met with thunderous applause.

"I am the product of an Australia that wanted and was encouraged to explore its voice culturally, " she said.

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"When I went to university I could explore different courses and engage with a student union in extra curricular activity - it is through that that I discovered acting."

The Oscar winning actress said she was "overwhelmed" when it came to summarising Whitlam's  impact on women and the arts.

She outlined changes to the minimum wage to cover female workers, the single mother's pension and the introduction of the no-fault divorce as big-impact policies.

"The effect on the geo-cultural and political map of Australia made by Gough Whitlam is so vast  that wherever you stick the pin in you get a wealth of Gough's legacy."

"The nation was truly changed by him through the arts and by gender," she continued. 

Of her personal experience she said, 

"I  am a working mother of three. When I took on the role in Little Fish I had just had my second child. No one batted an eyelid. No one passed judgement and no one deemed me incapable because the culture around women and the right for women to work as equals in Australia had also been addressed significantly by Gough Whitlam."

"The scale of Gough's ambitions and vision will be forever remembered," she concluded.