Tom Uren

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The Honourable
Tom Uren
Tom Uren 2013.jpg
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
In office
December 1975 – 22 December 1977
Leader Gough Whitlam
Preceded by Frank Crean
Succeeded by Lionel Bowen
Father of the Australian Parliament
In office
19 January 1984 – 19 February 1990
Preceded by Doug Anthony
Succeeded by Ian Sinclair
Father of the Australian House of Representatives
In office
19 January 1984 – 19 February 1990
Preceded by Doug Anthony
Succeeded by Ian Sinclair
Minister for Urban and Regional Development
In office
19 December 1972 – 11 November 1975
Preceded by None
Succeeded by John Carrick
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
Balmain, New South Wales
Died 26 January 2015(2015-01-26) (aged 93)
Sydney, New South Wales
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Patricia
Occupation Boxer, soldier

Thomas "Tom" Uren AC (28 May 1921 – 26 January 2015) was an Australian politician and Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1975 to 1977. Uren served as the Member for Reid in the Australian House of Representatives from 1958 to 1990, being appointed Minister for Urban and Regional Development (1972–75), Minister for Territories and Local Government (1983–84) and Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services (1984–87). He also 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. Uren had an early career as a professional boxer,[2] and challenged for the Australian heavyweight championship against Billy Britt.[3][4]

Bombardier Tom Uren (third from left, holding a tin mug and a newspaper) with some of the other members of the 2/1st Heavy Battery in 1941

In 1941, Uren joined the Australian Army's permanent forces. He subsequently volunteered for the Second Australian Imperial Force and served in the 2/1st Heavy Battery. Uren was deployed to Timor and was a prisoner of the Japanese from 1942 to 1945, during which time Uren worked on the Burma-Siam railway and served with Edward "Weary" Dunlop. Uren was later transferred to Japan where Uren witnessed the distant crimson sky resulting from the explosion of the US atom bomb on Nagasaki.[3][4][5][6] He was discharged in December, 1945 with the rank of Bombardier.[7]

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

Uren 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][8]

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 Uren's passion for the rest of Uren's career. Uren 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, Uren 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.[9] He was a key player in the creation of the Towra Point Nature Reserve.[citation needed] Despite his rhetoric as a firebrand, Uren 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, Uren was replaced by Lionel Bowen. Uren 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 – Uren 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, Uren was the last veteran of World War II to serve in the House of Representatives. In retirement he continued to campaign for various causes, including the protection of Sydney Harbour and its foreshores.[9] Uren opposed Australia's participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[5]


Uren was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours,[10] awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001,[11] and advanced to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the 2013 Australia Day Honours.


Aged 93, Uren died on 26 January 2015.[12]

State Funeral for The Honourable Tom Uren AC


  1. ^ – 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. ^ Coulthard-Clark (1996), p. 135
  7. ^ World War II Nominal Roll
  8. ^ Australian Biography
  9. ^ a b "Tom Uren AO". University of Sydney. 8 November 2002. Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  10. ^ It's an Honour: AO
  11. ^ It's an Honour: Centenary Medal
  12. ^ Frank Bongiorno (27 January 2015). "Tom Uren, 1921–2015". The Guardian. 


  • Coulthard-Clark, Chris (1996). Soldiers in Politics : The Impact of the military on Australian Political Life and Institutions. St. Leonards, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-185-4. 
  • Uren, Tom (1995). Straight Left. Random House Australia,. ISBN 0-09-182998-4. 
Political offices
New title Minister for Urban and Regional Development
Succeeded by
John Carrick
Preceded by
Michael Hodgman
Capital Territory
Minister for Territories and Local Government
Succeeded by
Gordon Scholes
Preceded by
Kevin Newman
Administrative Services
Minister for Local Government
and Administrative Services

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