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Kathleen Joan Venn OAM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Kathleen Venn

Awarded for service to the Community

Born: 1926
Died: 2019

Entered on roll: 2005

Born in Hobart, Kath Venn was educated at Campbell Street Primary and Ogilvie High Schools. She then found employment with the Australian Workers Union. She married in 1951 and has been a foster parent.

When Kath first became active in Labor politics as a young union delegate in the late 1940s, women party members tended to be consigned to the invisible work of politics, such as making tea, fundraising and manning the polling booths. Kath recalls it was very unusual for ‘a woman to get up and speak at a meeting in those days’. However, she did, setting a pattern for her future career as a highly visible politician and community activist.

She achieved national prominence in 1969 when she became the first female State Secretary of a major political party in Australia. Kath was also federal secretary of the Labor Women's Organisation, president of the RSL Women's Auxiliary (she was to serve on this auxiliary for 34 years), federal secretary of the Housewives Association and consumers' representative on the Tasmanian Milk Board.

In 1976, Kath became Tasmania's fourth female politician, elected to the seat of Hobart in the Legislative Council after the retirement of Phyllis Benjamin. She served as an MLC until 1982, including three years as Deputy Leader for the Government.

Kath remained active in the paid and volunteer workforce after her retirement from parliamentary politics. In addition to working as a marriage celebrant (a career she had begun in the mid-1970s) and Justice of the Peace, she was State President of the Housewives Association until 1991. Other roles include being a volunteer at the Repatriation Hospital for 37 years including the Alice Elliott Day Centre, member of the Prisoners' Aid Society, Past President of the Mount Stuart Progress Association, State Treasurer since 1970 of the Australian Forces Overseas Fund, and Chairwoman of the Ogilvie High School Hostel Board.

Venn House at Ogilvie High is named in Kath’s honour and she hosts regular meetings of the Old Scholars Association. For 25 years, Kath has been involved with Caroline House, a crisis accommodation centre for women, and is currently its President. She has been the President of the Masonic Widows Association since 2000. In 2004, she was appointed State President of the Catholic Women’s League. Kath is also a member of the State Committee of the Order of Australia Association and has been the Secretary/Treasurer for nine years.

Kath was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1990. In 2002, she was made ANZAC of the year.

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