Wednesday, January 28 2015

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State


It is with great sorrow that I extend my condolences to the family and friends of The Hon. Thomas ‘Tom’ Uren AC. Mr Uren, a Second World War veteran and former Labor Minister, passed away earlier this week. Mr Uren was dedicated to serving his country and will be greatly missed.

Born in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, Tom Uren wanted to pursue a boxing career, but his dream was cut short by the start of the Second World War. At 18 years old, Mr Uren joined the Army and served as a Bombardier with Artillery’s 2/1 Heavy Battery which was deployed to West Timor in December 1941. When Timor fell to the Japanese he was taken prisoner.

From Timor he was taken to Singapore and spent time in Changi before being sent to work on the Burma–Thailand railway. On the railway, he considered himself one of the ‘lucky ones’ who was placed under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop. Having survived the brutality of the railway he was sent to Japan and was there when the war ended.

Mr Uren’s wartime experiences, especially his time as a prisoner of war, shaped his thinking for the rest of his life, and was central to the values he took into his political career. He once said:

I've travelled a long way in my political spectrum but I still stand back to those basic fundamentals of life that it is right of the strong to look after the weak and the young to look after the old and the fit to look after the sick…. That's what life's all about. And that simple philosophy that I drew out of my experience of serving under Weary has grown.

Following the war and another brief stint in the boxing ring, Mr Uren joined the Australian Labor Party, entering Federal Parliament in 1958. In 1972 he became Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam Government, setting up the Australian Heritage Commission and the National Estate and creating new national parks.

He served his electorate of Reid in Western Sydney from 1958 until his retirement from politics in 1990.

Mr Uren was one of Australia’s most respected politicians and will be greatly missed. He stood by his beliefs, never wavering in his constant fight for peace and justice.

I send my deepest sympathies to Tom Uren’s family and friends during this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Media inquiries:

Minister Ronaldson: Mark Lee 02 6277 7820 or 0408 547 381

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

PDF version (63 KB)