Nick McKenna

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The Honourable
Nick McKenna
SJCM Nick McKenna.jpg
Senator for Tasmania
In office
1 July 1944 – 30 June 1968
Personal details
Born (1895-09-09)9 September 1895
Carlton, Victoria, Australia
Died 22 April 1974(1974-04-22) (aged 78)
Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party

Nicholas Edward McKenna (9 September 1895 – 22 April 1974) was a politician and member of the Australian Labor Party.

Early life[edit]

McKenna was born in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton and educated at St. Joseph's Christian Brothers' College, North Melbourne between 1904 and 1912.[1] In 1909 aged 13, McKenna and another boy were instrumental in saving the life of a man floundering in the water off the pier at Elwood. Their local newspaper describing the incident said that, "...they furnish a bright example to other youths."[2]

McKenna excelled in his schooling passing seven subjects in the Senior Public University Examination in 1911 and eventually gaining second place in the national Federal Public Service Examination in 1912.

At age 17 he joined the Commonwealth Public Service in the Auditor General's office. He earned an LL.B. from the University of Melbourne in 1923 and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1928. He moved to Hobart in 1929 and married Kathleen Mary Coghlan in January 1930—they had a son and daughter.[3]

Political career[edit]

McKenna was elected as a senator for Tasmania at the 1943 election, representing the Australian Labor Party. He was appointed as Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services in the second Chifley Ministry in November 1946 and held those positions until the defeat of the Chifley government at the 1949 election. He campaigned energetically for the 1946 referendums and, with the passage of the social services proposal, he was in charge of the government's attempt to introduce a national health scheme.[3]

McKenna was leader of the opposition in the Senate from 1951 to 1966. He took an active part in the fight against the banning of the Communist Party of Australia in the 1951 referendum. He considered that it was a high point in his career that Australia has "decided not to become a police state". He retired from the Senate in July 1968.[3]

Later life[edit]

McKenna's wife and son both died in 1969. He survived them by five years, eventually passing away in 1974 at the Sydney suburb of Crows Nest, New South Wales, survived by his daughter.[3]


  1. ^ Review of St. Joseph's Christian Brothers' College North Melbourne, Golden Jubilee 1953. St Josephs, North Melbourne
  2. ^ News and Notes. (2 July 1909). The Coburg Leader (Vic. : 1890 - 1913), p. 1. Retrieved 3 May 2014, from
  3. ^ a b c d Baume, Peter (2000). "McKenna, Nicholas Edward (1895–1974)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
Political offices
Preceded by
James Fraser
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Earle Page
Minister for Social Services
Succeeded by
Bill Spooner
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Ashley
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate
Succeeded by
Don Willesee