Doug Everingham (right) was the federal member for Capricornia twice, from 1967 to 1975, and 1977 to 1984.
Doug Everingham (right) was the federal member for Capricornia twice, from 1967 to 1975, and 1977 to 1984. Contributed

'Father of Medicare': Tributes for respected CQ politician

IN ROBERT Schwarten's mind, it's not a stretch to say former Capricornia MP Dr Douglas Everingham was the father of Medicare.

The former Rockhampton MP paid tribute to Dr Everingham, who was health minister in the Whitlam Government and pushed for the universal healthcare system which would become Medicare.

Dr Everingham died last Thursday, aged 94 in an age care home in Brisbane.

Dr Everingham beat Mr Schwarten's father Evan for Labor Party pre-selection in 1967, at a time when party-leader Gough Whitlam wanted to add more tertiary-educated politicians to the ranks.

"He was really the first of the Whitlam academics," Mr Schwarten said.

Dr Everingham worked in public and private hospitals, as well as a general practitioner in Rockhampton, after his graduation from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1946.

After he won Capricornia, he became health minister and was responsible for introducing community health centres and establishing the Hospital and Health Services Commission.

He opened new hospitals and established new agreements with the states and also focused on Aboriginal health program


Dr Douglas Everingham
Dr Douglas Everingham Contributed

Although it was not delivered during his tenure as health minister, Mr Schwarten said Dr Everingham was instrumental in the creation of Medicare.

"It could be said he was the father of Medicare because he was absolutely committed to the view the only way to get medical services delivered was via general practitioners, and that the only way that working class people or people who were poor was by having a universal health system that was paid for by some form of taxation," Mr Schwarten said.

"He was somebody with vision and one of the few doctors at that time that were in the Labor Party.

"He was a person of great social conscience and social justice."

Another person who felt the depth of Dr Everingham's social conscience and knowledge was Barry Large, a Rockhampton Labor identity and former advisor to Kirsten Livermore.

It was Dr Everingham who invited Mr Large to his first Labor Party meeting in 1965, and would continue to offer him advise in the decades that followed.

"He recommend books for me to read on politics and the world in general," he said. "We continued a correspondence with letters on conscription and the Vietnam war.

He worked tirelessly for peace. And had a profound influence on many people at many levels. The changes made while he was Health Minister in the Whitlam Government have changed health care in Australia forever.

"I went though some of his old letters yesterday and was struck by his concerns then, for what we now call climate change, but more particularly world overpopulation.

"In these as in most matters he was ahead of his time. Even in the sixties he was fiercely anti-tobacco and was remembered by his Parliamentary colleges as the person who went around Parliament House in Canberra putting anti-smoking stickers on the cigarette vending machines prevalent in those days. A brave act in the late sixties and early seventies."

Dr Everingham also helped Mr Large in a personal sense, as the family's doctor he spent many hours on rehabilitation after Mr Large lost his voice in a car accident in 1964.

"He remains my personal and political mentor and legend," he said.

Dr Everingham was married twice, with wives Beverley and Shirley predeceasing him.

He had two daughters, Jo-Anne and Sue, and two sons, Stephen who was killed in a car accident aged 22 in 1973, and Rick.

He also had seven grandchildren, one great grandchild born three days before his death, two stepchildren and three step-grandchildren.

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