Mourners from across Sydney gathered today to celebrate the life of Tom Uren, Whitlam Government minister and one of the last World War Two veterans to serve in public office.

Vale Tom Uren, long serving ALP Parliamentarian, Prisoner of War under the Japanese, Manager of Woolworths in Lithgow, the first ever Federal Minister for Urban and Regional Development who ensured Woolloomooloo was saved for public housing after the BLF and local residents campaigned against grotesque redevelopment, and a stalwart campaigner and fighter for free speech.

In 1978 Tom Uren joined the fight for the right to protest in Brisbane. Senator George Georges, (ALP QLD) invited Uren to a civil liberties rally. The Bjelke Petersen government had legislated that no more than three people were permitted to march together and could only do that with police permission. The police of course were refusing permission to groups who opposed uranium mining, damage to the Barrier Reef and supporters of Aboriginal Land Rights for example. The Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen’s Union supported the rally. Uren spoke, invoking the words of Martin Luther King: “…there are two types of laws: just and unjust… One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” The Wharfies and Seamen, with Uren, Georges and others proceeded down the street and arrests were the consequence. They were arrested numerous times in the following months.


(Uren between 2 policemen. George Georges front and centre)

See Tom Uren. Straight Left (Sydney Random House, 1994)

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