Tom Uren

Thomas 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 helped establish the heritage and conservation movement in Australia and, in particular, worked to preserve the heritage of inner Sydney.

Thomas Uren
Father of the Parliament
In office
19 January 1984  19 February 1990
Preceded byDoug Anthony
Succeeded byIan Sinclair
Father of the House of Representatives
In office
19 January 1984  19 February 1990
Preceded byDoug Anthony
Succeeded byIan Sinclair
Minister for Local Government
and Administrative Services
In office
13 December 1984  24 July 1987
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byJohn Brown
Succeeded byClyde Holding (Local Government)
Stewart West (Administrative Services)
Minister for Territories and Local Government
In office
11 March 1983  13 December 1984
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byNo Immediate Predecessor
Succeeded byGordon Scholes
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Community Development and Regional Affairs
In office
11 March 1983  13 December 1984
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byOffice Established
Succeeded byOffice Abolished
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
In office
22 December 1975  22 December 1977
LeaderGough Whitlam
Preceded byFrank Crean
Succeeded byLionel Bowen
Minister for Urban and Regional Development
In office
19 December 1972  11 November 1975
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byOffice Established
Succeeded byJohn Carrick
Member of the Australian Parliament for Reid
In office
22 November 1958  19 February 1990
Preceded byCharles Morgan
Succeeded byLaurie Ferguson
Personal details
Born(1921-05-28)28 May 1921
Balmain, New South Wales, Australia
Died26 January 2015(2015-01-26) (aged 93)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyAustralian Labor Party
Spouse(s)Patricia, Christine Ann Logan
OccupationBoxer, soldier

Early life

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, having originated 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 he worked on the Burma Railway and served with Edward "Weary" Dunlop.[5]

Uren was later transferred to Japan where he witnessed the distant crimson sky that resulted from the explosion of the US atom bomb on Nagasaki.[3][4][6][7] He was discharged in December 1945 with the rank of Bombardier.[8]

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 being inspired 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][9]

Political career

Uren in 1959.

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 represented the electorate until his retirement before the 1990 election, thirty-two years later.[4]

Uren in 1963.

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.[10] He was a key player in the creation of the Towra Point Nature Reserve. Despite his reputation 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.

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. 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. He and Queensland's Clarrie Millar were the last combat veterans of World War II to serve in the House of Representatives, while Russ Gorman, a non-combat veteran, would serve until 1996. In retirement he continued to campaign for various causes, including the protection of Sydney Harbour and its foreshores.[10] Uren opposed Australia's participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[6]


Tom Uren in 2013

Uren was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours,[11] awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001,[12] and advanced to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the 2013 Australia Day Honours.


There is now a park in Iris Street, West Guildford, called "Tom Uren Park" in memory of the Labor Party local.[13]

Uren had a strong influence on Anthony Albanese, who became the Prime Minister of Australia in May 2022.[14] Albanese stated in June 2021 that "I grew up without a dad, but not without a father. Tom Uren was my father figure."[15]


Uren died on 26 January 2015, aged 93.[16][17]


  1. "Australian Biography: Tom Uren". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  2. McCoy to meet Tommy Uren, The Mercury (p. 8), 26 April 1922.
  3. "Papers of Tom Uren". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  4. "Tom Uren's account of an era". Green Left Weekly Online Edition. 16 November 1994. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  5. "Vale--Tom Uren". Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  6. Uren, Tom (23 April 2002). "Our mission for this new millenium". Evatt Foundation. Archived from the original on 5 October 2007. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  7. Coulthard-Clark (1996), p. 135
  8. Profile Archived 2 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 15 September 2017.
  9. "Transcript 6". Australian Biography project. Archived from the original on 16 March 2016.
  10. "Tom Uren AO". University of Sydney. 8 November 2002. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  11. "Australia celebrating Australians". Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  12. "Australia celebrating Australians". Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  13. "Labour Australia".
  14. Wright, Tony (27 May 2022). "'I love the boy': The gift our PM received from a bamboo prison". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
  15. Albanese, Anthony (20 June 2021). "Tom Uren AC Memorial Lecture". Retrieved 28 May 2022.
  16. Frank Bongiorno (27 January 2015). "Tom Uren, 1921–2015". The Guardian.
  17. "State Funeral for The Honourable Tom Uren AC". Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.


  • Coulthard-Clark, Chris (1996). Soldiers in Politics: The Impact of the military on Australian Political Life and Institutions. St Leonard's, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-185-4.
  • Uren, Tom (1995). Straight Left. Random House. ISBN 0-09-182998-4.
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