Kenneth James Aldred
Born: 1 August 1945
Died: 17 April 2016
FORMER federal parliamentarian, passionate Liberal and Upper Beaconsfield stalwart Ken Aldred died suddenly on 17 April.
At his funeral, Ken was likened to a mountain range.
“You looked up and knew it would be there,” said friend Andrew Campbell.
Kenneth James Aldred was born on 1 August 1945.
His father, James, was a distinguished civil servant. His mother, Nellie, a home maker.
His parents taught their children to debate rationally and thoughtfully. They would often debate around the dinner table at night and discuss current issues. Ken’s sister Heather remembers a broad range of topics, including history, art, politics and literature.
The family lived in Murrumbeena and enjoyed regular trips to the beach at Ricketts Point. Each year the family would holiday at Rye and in the winter would spend time at Sherbrooke.
During his teenage years, Ken became an avid reader and developed a life-long interest in military history. He also played tennis, rode horses and developed a passion for keeping goldfish.
After graduating from Melbourne High, he went to Monash University, which was fitting given his enormous regard for Sir John Monash.
Ken graduated with a degree in economics and later returned to Monash to graduate again with a Master of Administration.
In 1970 he secured a job as Special Projects officer in the Commonwealth Public Service Board in Melbourne.
In 1971, he travelled to Papua New Guinea, where he worked as a lecturer in business at the administrative college in Boroko, just out of Port Moresby.
He came to know a number of political figures in Papua New Guinea, including Sir Michael Somare and Sir John Yocklin.
On return to Australia, Ken was endorsed as the Liberal candidate for Henty. At the 1975 election he defeated the Labor sitting member Joan Child.
Ken was the Member for Henty from 1975 until 1980, the Member for Bruce from 1983 until 1990 and the Member for Deakin from 1990 until 1996. None of these elections were easy, and he deservedly earned a hard-fought reputation as a strong marginal seat campaigner.
He was also involved with the Victorian Dairy Processing Industry Training Committee. This took him around Victoria, and gave Ken an in-depth understanding of dairy industry policy.
Ken married Margaret Panton in 1980.
Margie tells the story that Ken invited her out for a date and that when she arrived, she could see him talking to a colleague, looking at his watch and then talking on regardless. So Margie stood him up and left.
It took a grovelling apology and a shy second invitation to dinner. That night must have been successful, because they went on to form a dynamic partnership.
In 1983 the couple welcomed their first daughter, Mary. Ken would often say that driving home on the Monash Freeway the evening of Mary’s birth was the happiest day of his life.
Seventeen months later James was born, then in 1989 Lucy and finally John.
Ken took up a number of causes during his time in parliament, some of them controversial like the group of Russian Jewish asylum seekers who had been denied refugee status by the Hawke Government.
Ken believed they were being persecuted and lobbied hard for them to be granted refugee status. Through his efforts, they were granted asylum and a number would become Ken’s close friends.
Ken left Federal Parliament in 1996, just as the Howard Government was elected.
Ken and Margaret purchased the Victorian Equestrian Centre in Upper Beaconsfield.
He joined the Upper Beaconsfield CFA, the local Lions club and later Rotary. He continued his strong involvement with the Liberal Party, joining the Berwick branch.
He also continued writing, and would go on to publish three books.
In 2002, Ken and Margaret separated. After this Ken ran the VEC by himself and devoted a lot of energy to fostering tourism in the area through the Casey Cardinia Tourism Association.
At the time of his unexpected death, Ken was preparing to sell the equestrian centre and move onto the next phase of his life.
At his funeral his proud children spoke of their dad.
John described his father’s demeanour as “jolly”.
“If any friends or partners would ever meet Dad, they would always say after, “Your Dad is soo nice!” or “he is so sweet” said James.
Mary commented on her dad’s resilience and his capacity to keep going with a positive attitude.
“Despite engaging in a lifetime of political battles, Dad was not a hater. There was never any lasting acrimony in him.
“There is a quote Dad once used in the parliament, where he evokes Abraham Lincoln. I think it describes Dad perfectly. He said, character is like a tree, and reputation is its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing. My Dad was the real thing.”