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Dame Audrey Tattie Reader (1903–1989)

by Margaret Fitzherbert

This article was published:

Dame Audrey Tattie Hinchcliff Reader (1903-1989), Liberal Party organiser and community worker, was born on 9 December 1903 at Macedon, Victoria, second child of Victorian-born parents William Henry Nicholls, contractor, and his wife Mabel Tattie Brimacombe, née Mallett. Audrey was educated at Macedon and in Melbourne. On 21 February 1928 she married Reginald (Rex) John Reader, electrical engineer, at St James’s Church of England, East Malvern. Both were founding members (1944) of the Liberal Party of Australia.

A political ally of (Dame) Ivy Wedgwood, (Dame) Elizabeth Couchman and Edith Haynes, leading members of the Australian Women’s National League until its incorporation into the Liberal Party, Reader was a founding member (1951), and chairman for twenty-eight years, of the party’s Chadstone women’s section. In 1955-58 she was State chairman of the women’s section and in 1957 was president of the federal women’s council. She served on the Liberal Party State executive (1951-77) as a federal councillor (1955-67) and metropolitan vice-president (1962-67), and also as a board member of radio-station 3XY, then owned by the party.

Much of Reader’s work was in the anonymous backroom of politics. For example, after Prime Minister Harold Holt’s sudden death in December 1967 she quietly mustered support for a smooth preselection of Senator (Sir) John Gorton in Holt’s seat of Higgins, when Gorton moved to the House of Representatives to become prime minister. Partly due to her efforts he was preselected unopposed.

A member (1950-89) of the Good Neighbour Council of Victoria, Reader was an executive-member (1958-73) and convenor of its contact committee, which welcomed new migrants to communities. During the 1950s and 1960s many Liberal women in Victoria joined the National Council of Women. Reader, who became a NCW member in 1955, was an executive member (1958-70), honorary secretary of the State branch (1965-67) and the Australia board (1967-70). An associate of (Dame) Ada Norris—the two women were NCW delegates to the Good Neighbour Council—she was the convenor of the NCW’s migration committee.

In 1969-73 Reader was the national secretary of the appeal, launched by Norris, for a hall of residence for women students at the University of Papua New Guinea. A justice of the peace, she was a member of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Committee (1971-73) and of the Consumer Protection Council (1965-73). She was a member of the Freedom Coalition, the Australia-Free China Society and the Royal Society of St George.

Unpretentious, self-effacing and highly organised, Reader regarded volunteering as serious work. In 1966 she was appointed OBE and in 1978 was elevated to DBE. She was named an honorary member of the NCW of Victoria (1974) and of the Liberal Party Victorian State council (1981). Predeceased (1986) by her husband, she died on 6 March 1989 at South Caulfield and was cremated. Her daughter survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Norris, Champions of the Impossible (1978)
  • D. Sydenham, Women of Influence (1996)
  • B. Loughnane (ed), 60 Years of Achievement for Australia (2006)
  • Australian, 31 Dec 1977-1 Jan 1978, ‘Weekend Magazine’, p 2.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Margaret Fitzherbert, 'Reader, Dame Audrey Tattie (1903–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Nicholls, Audrey Tattie

9 December, 1903
Macedon, Victoria, Australia


6 March, 1989 (aged 85)
Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia