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Kathleen Harris (Kath) Anderson (1921–1996)

by Daniel Lewis

from Sydney Morning Herald

The great symbol of Australian Labor — Ben Chifley's "Light on the Hill" — is a metaphor saved for great occasions and the party's most faithful.

Yesterday, it was used by no less a Labor luminary than former Premier Neville Wran to mark the passing of a matriarch of the NSW ALP Right.

"In Kath [Kathleen Harris] Anderson, the Labor Party has lost a stalwart who never stopped believing in the Light on the Hill and did all she could to keep the light burning," he said.

Mrs Anderson died in Nepean Hospital last Thursday, aged 75, after a long illness.

Born in Canowindra, the daughter of a union official, she joined the ALP at 14 and pioneered a remarkable career within her party, State Parliament and the Public Service made all the more remarkable by her gender and generation.

But even more powerful than the symbolism of the light were the living who filled her funeral at St Stephen's Uniting Church in Macquarie Street, across from the Bear Pit in which she served.

As the scion of another great ALP family, Mrs Deirdre Grusovin, noted in her tribute, Mrs Anderson was not just a pioneer in her own right, but a groomer of young talent — and many of her protege's had turned out to honour her.

They included the likes of the Premier, Mr Carr, former party powerbroker Mr Graham Richardson and Mrs Grusovin's brother, Mr Laurie Brereton, the Federal Opposition's foreign affairs spokesman.

But as speaker after speaker pointed out, there was far more to Mrs Anderson than politics and party. She also loved her family and her Church, although nobody yesterday mentioned her love for rugby league and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

And because Keith Anderson, who died in 1965, was the member for the old seat of Paddington-Waverley, and her son, Peter Anderson, was a former minister in the Wran Government, Mrs Anderson was the only woman in the Commonwealth who could claim to have sat in the same Parliament as her husband and her son.

Mrs Anderson served in the NSW Upper House from 1973 to 1981, the last five years as Whip, and held many senior positions in the Labor Party machine.

She also served on government boards, the most notable being that of Sydney County Council from 1963 to 1991.

She was also highly regarded for her work with the local arts community in Penrith.

In everything Mrs Anderson did, the service was told, "loyalty" was the constant theme.

The Rev Ronald Coleman, who knew her through 40 years of involvement with the Uniting Church, said: "Kath Anderson was a person of conviction, a person of action and a person who was loyal to the things in which she believed."

Funeral mourners included the secretary of the NSW Labor Council, Mr Peter Sams, the former Lord Mayor of Sydney, Mr Doug Sutherland, the Mayor of South Sydney, Councillor Vic Smith, the State Cabinet and former Fahey Government Minister Mrs Kerry Chikarovski.

Mrs Anderson is survived by Peter and grandchildren Jeremy and Dominique.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Kathleen Harris (Kath) Anderson

Additional Resources

Citation details

Daniel Lewis, 'Anderson, Kathleen Harris (Kath) (1921–1996)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2024.

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