Labor leader Bill Shorten’s emotional tribute to his mother has seen Australians flood social media with stories of their own mums’ sacrifices.
Mr Shorten told a TV audience on Monday how his late mother, Ann, had sacrificed studying law when she left school to look after her siblings.
On Wednesday, a front-page newspaper report headlined “Mother of Invention” accused Mr Shorten of neglecting to tell the whole story. Mrs Shorten had subsequently graduated with a law degree at the age of 51.
Mr Shorten has previously acknowledged his mother’s law education later in life.
Describing the report as “a new low,” Mr Shorten was visibly moved as he recalled his mother’s life.
“I’ve spoken about my mum before,” he said.
“She came from very modest circumstances. They didn’t have the money to send her to university, so she had to take a teacher scholarship.
“She’d wanted to do law when she was 17. She didn’t get that chance. She raised kids.
“At 50, she backed herself. But she discovered in her mid-50s that sometimes you’re just too old. And you shouldn’t be too old but she discovered the discrimination against older women.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those to condemn the report, which appeared in Australian newspaper the Daily Telegraph little more than a week before Australians will elect a new government on 18 May.
“This is a very upsetting story and I can understand that Bill would have been very hurt by that story,” he said.
“This election is not about our families.”
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Social media users have responded to the controversy with the hashtag #MyMum. Thousands of people have been using it to relay the personal and professional sacrifices their mothers made for their families, as well as historical injustices they faced or the ambitions that thwarted.
Some told of the lengths their mother would go to in order to support their families. Labor MP Catherine King recalled her mother recording bedtime stories for her children as she worked in the evenings.
“My mum left school at 12 to work and help support her siblings,” another social media user wrote.
“She married at 23 and raised five children, kept a household together and worked in Aged Care to help make ends meet. She’s 83 and is still working in Aboriginal health.”
Many took the opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers’ achievements, like comedian Dan Ilic and journalist Rohan Connolly among them.
Others described a society in which their mothers’ ambitions could not be fulfilled.
Bill Shorten is hoping to defeat incumbent Scott Morrison to become prime minister when Australians go to the polls later this month.
If he does, he will become the sixth Australian prime minister in nine years.