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Lady Bettina Edith Gorton (1915–1983)

by Yohanni Johns

Lady Bettina Gorton, who died on 2 October, had had a long association with the ANU and was a distinguished graduate of the Faculty of Asian Studies.

An apt student, she completed her pass degree in Asian Studies in 1965 and a Masters qualifying part-time in 1968.

In 1967 she began work on the English-Malay Dictionary project, with which she was able to remain associated until it moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1977. Both her academic interests and her work on the dictionary were necessarily restricted when her husband became Prime Minister in 1968, but she remained involved in the project, and it was due to her good offices that it was supported by a special grant from the Department of Education in 1971.

She put her studies to good use when she accompanied her husband on an official visit to Indonesia and Malaysia in 1968. She won great success as a result of her deep interest in the cultural life of the region, her warm, open approach to the people she met, and the effectiveness of the speeches she made in the Indonesian language. She has many friends in Indonesia and Malaysia.

After her husband's resignation as Prime Minister she returned to the ANU to work full time on the dictionary, and when it moved to Kuala Lumpur she began to collect material in earnest for her Masters topic, The Life and Times of Achdiat Karta Mihardja, a well-known Indonesian author and one-time colleague in the Faculty of Asian Studies. In May 1977 she visited his birthplace in West Java and interviewed many of the people who had known him and grown up with him.

Lady Gorton was essentially a shy and private person with great resources of character. She preferred to show her values and commitments through what she did, rather than what she said. She remained constant to her friends despite the ups and downs of her husband's political career.

She loved her family and was always available to help with her grandchildren. Despite poor health for the last few years, she kept her good spirits and her smile.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Yohanni Johns, 'Gorton, Lady Bettina Edith (1915–1983)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Brown, Bettina

Maine, United States of America


2 October, 1983 (aged ~ 68)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.