Tom Uren

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The Honourable
Tom Uren
AC
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Reid
In office
22 November 1958 – 19 February 1990
Preceded by Charles Morgan
Succeeded by Laurie Ferguson
Personal details
Born (1921-05-28) 28 May 1921 (age 93)
Balmain, Sydney
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Patricia
Occupation Boxer, soldier

Thomas Uren, AC (born 28 May 1921) was a Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party. He helped establish the heritage and conservation movement in Australia and, in particular, worked to preserve the heritage of inner Sydney.

Early life[edit]

Uren was born in Balmain, Sydney, then a working-class suburb, and was educated at Manly High School. Uren's family is of Cornish ancestry, originating in Penzance.[1] Uren played rugby league for Manly Warringah in his youth and was a strong competitive swimmer. He had an early career as a professional boxer,[2] and challenged for the Australian heavyweight championship against Billy Britt.[3][4]

In 1941, Uren joined the Australian Army and served in the 2/40th Infantry Battalion. He was deployed to Timor and was a prisoner of the Japanese from 1942 to 1945, during which time he worked on the Burma-Siam railway and served with Edward "Weary" Dunlop. He was later transferred to Japan where he witnessed the distant crimson sky resulting from the explosion of the US atom bomb on Nagasaki.[3][4][5] He was discharged in December, 1945 with the rank of Bombardier.[6]

After the war Uren spent a short time trying to revive his boxing career which included a trip to England and he worked for his passage on voyages through the Panama Canal. On return he spent some time as a Woolworths manager at Lithgow. He was inspired to join the Australian Labor Party after attending Ben Chifley's funeral.

He and his wife Patricia moved to Guildford, in Sydney's west, in the late 1940s, and established two small retailing outlets on the corner of Chetwynd Road and Hawksview Street, West Guildford to gain the financial independence to pursue a political career. Uren also built a family home nearby, before transferring from the Lithgow branch of the Labor party to the West Guildford branch in 1954.[4][7]

There is now a park in Iris Street, West Guildford, called "Tom Uren Park" in memory of the Labor Party local.

Political career[edit]

Uren won Labor pre-selection in 1957 for the House of Representatives seat of Reid in western Sydney, which he won at the 1958 election. He was to represent the electorate until his retirement before the 1990 election, thirty two years later.[4]

Uren was a strong supporter of the left wing of the Labor Party, led at first by Eddie Ward and later by Jim Cairns, and was sometimes accused of being a secret communist, an accusation he denied. He campaigned against the Vietnam War, conscription and nuclear testing.

In 1969 Uren was appointed by Gough Whitlam to the Opposition front bench with responsibility for housing and urban affairs, which became his passion for the rest of his career. He was Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam government from 1972 to 1975. He established the Australian Heritage Commission and consequent compilation of the Register of the National Estate. In Sydney, he promoted the restoration and re-use of derelict inner city areas such as the Glebe Estate and Woolloomooloo, the reclamation of Duck Creek and the creation of the Chipping Norton Lakes Scheme.[8] He was a key player in the creation of the Towra Point Nature Reserve.[citation needed] Despite his rhetoric as a firebrand, he proved a highly competent minister and was one of the few ministers to emerge from the fall of the Whitlam government with his reputation enhanced.[citation needed]

In 1976 Uren was elected Deputy Leader of the Labor Party under Whitlam as Opposition Leader, but after the 1977 election, when Bill Hayden was elected Leader, he was replaced by Lionel Bowen. He succeeded Jim Cairns as leader of the ALP Left, and bitterly opposed Bob Hawke's rise to the Labor leadership.[citation needed] As a result, when the Hawke government won the 1983 election, Uren, despite being a former deputy leader of the party, was omitted from the Cabinet – he was given the junior portfolio of Minister for Territories and Local Government, and from 1984 to 1987 Local Government and Administrative Services. He became Father of the House of Representatives in 1984.

Uren stood down from the ministry after the 1987 election and retired from Parliament in 1990. Together with Queensland's Clarrie Millar, he was the last veteran of World War II to serve in the House of Representatives. In retirement he continues to campaign for various causes, including the protection of Sydney Harbour and its foreshores.[8] He opposed Australia's participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[5]

Honours[edit]

Tom Uren was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours.[9]

In 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal.[10]

In the 2013 Australia Day Honours he was advanced to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.australianbiography.gov.au/subjects/uren/intertext1.html – date accessed 1st Feb 2011
  2. ^ McCoy to meet Tommy Uren, The Mercury, (Wednesday, 26 April 1922>),p.8.
  3. ^ a b "Papers of Tom Uren (1921– )". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Tom Uren's account of an era". Green Left Weekly Online Edition. 16 November 1994. Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  5. ^ a b Uren, Tom (23 April 2002). "Our mission for this new millenium". Evatt Foundation. Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  6. ^ World War II Nominal Roll
  7. ^ Australian Biography
  8. ^ a b "Tom Uren AO". University of Sydney. 8 November 2002. Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  9. ^ It's an Honour: AO
  10. ^ It's an Honour: Centenary Medal

References[edit]

Political offices
New title Minister for Urban and Regional Development
1972–75
Succeeded by
John Carrick
Preceded by
Michael Hodgman
Capital Territory
Minister for Territories and Local Government
1983–84
Succeeded by
Gordon Scholes
Territories
Preceded by
Kevin Newman
Administrative Services
Minister for Local Government
and Administrative Services

1984–87
Succeeded by
Clyde Holding (Local Government)
Stewart West (Administrative Services)
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Charles Morgan
Member for Reid
1958–90
Succeeded by
Laurie Ferguson
Preceded by
Doug Anthony
Father of the House of Representatives
1984–90
Succeeded by
Ian Sinclair
Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Crean
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
1975–77
Succeeded by
Lionel Bowen