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Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter - Independents’ Family Histories Reflect Two Centuries of Diverse Australian Culture

The balance of power in Australian politics rested on the descendants of a war hero, a federal architect, a ‘rags to riches’ immigrant and a recidivist convict

As 2010 draws to a close and the dust settles on what was Australia’s first hung parliament in 70 years, leading family history websitei has investigated the roots of the three Independents who were each instrumental in determining the nation’s current leadership.

Interestingly, it reveals a microcosm of 21st century Australian culture. Despite the ancestors of Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor hailing from Hackney, Middlesex, England, their family histories, along with Bob Katter’s, display few similarities.

Before Rob Oakeshott helped shape the current political landscape, his great-grandfather George John Oakeshott helped shape Sydney’s skyline. Born in Hackney, George John Oakeshott worked on several buildings at Sydney University and other significant government projects, and served as the Director of Works for New South Wales (NSW).

Rob’s grandfather was a medical practitioner in Lismore, NSW, when he was called to serve in World War II. As a Captain serving in the Australian Armed Medical Corps, he was captured and placed in Sandakan prison camp. In the appalling camp conditions, Captain Oakeshott cared for many of the soldiers at the expense of his own health and was executed August 1, 1945, just two weeks before the war ended.

While Tony Windsor’s grandparents and great-grandparents were all upstanding citizens and pictures of Victorian respectability, Tony’s 2x great-grandfather, Charles Dunn, who was born in 1805, had a bit of a mischievous streak. In 1826, he and his brother were caught stealing dripping wet bedding from a clothes line. After a short stint spent in prison, Charles was later transported to NSW aboard the Midas, arriving in Sydney in 1827.

Eventually Charles was granted his freedom in 1833, married and forged a career as a Ginger Beer Brewer, though he continued to show up in front of the magistrate for various small crimes. Ultimately, he was convicted of horse stealing and sent to Darlingurst Gaol in 1864 where he died shortly after.

Bob Katter’s grandfather, Carl Robert (Carlyle Assad) Katter, was born in Bsharri, Lebanon and eventually made his way to Brisbane where he met and married his boss’s 15-year-old daughter, Vivian Bridget Warby in 1907. In an example of an immigrant ‘rags to riches’ success story, Carl went from being a driver to one of Brisbane’s finest drapers and a well respected member of the community.

It turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as Bob’s father, Robert Katter, was also a federal MP. Content Director, Brad Argent, said: “The diverse history of the three Independents is significant, as their stories are uniquely Australian and mirror the varied backgrounds of the constituents they now represent.”

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