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Gloves off (Tom Uren)
, 1996

by Ralph Heimans

oil on canvas (frame: 141.1 x 172.1 x 50.0 cm, support: 122.0 x 152.4 cm)

Tom Uren AC (1921-2015), former Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, was a major campaigner on environmental and urban-planning issues and rights for veterans. He became active in left-wing politics after the war, during which he was a prisoner of the Japanese. Becoming member for the western Sydney electorate of Reid in 1958, he held the seat until he retired 32 years later. He was Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam government and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in 1976–1977. In the Hawke government he held several portfolios before retiring to the backbench in 1987. He retired from politics in 1990 and became a Life Member of the ALP in 1993. A great volume of Uren’s correspondence and official papers is held by the National Library; his autobiography, Straight left, was published in 1994.

Tom Uren lived for most of his life in Balmain, Sydney, where he was born. The portrait Gloves off refers not only to Uren’s early ambitions as a boxer, but to his multifarious political battles for social justice and heritage conservation of areas of inner Sydney (which can be seen in the background).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2001
Accession number: 2000.36