Henderson, Heather (1928-)

NLA Persistent Identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.party-701095

Biographies

Heather Henderson is the only daughter of former Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies and Dame Pattie Menzies. She was influential in the development of Australia's capital city, Canberra.

The transformation of Canberra from a paddock of public servants to a functioning civic community owed much to the sense and daughterly persuasion of Heather Henderson, née Menzies.

Born in 1928, Heather is the only daughter of Sir Robert and Dame Pattie Menzies, and was from the beginning very much the apple of her father's eye. Unlike some offspring of politicians who often see little of their parents, Heather was a solid fixture in her father's routine, whether personal or political.

After initially turning down Joseph Lyon's invitation to join Cabinet in 1934 because he did not want to burden his family with long absences from their home in Melbourne, Menzies reconsidered and accepted the positions of Attorney General and Minister for Industry.

Heather's older brothers Kenneth and Ian were enrolled as boarders at Geelong College in 1936. While opportunities for the boys to see their parents were limited, Heather who had become a weekly boarder at Ruyton Girl's School, Kew, was able to enjoy home life more regularly.

In letters written during 1944-46 to Kenneth, who was serving with the AIF, Menzies wrote regular news of young Heather, by now a senior student at Ruyton. Very much a teenager, willowy, orthodontic bands and good at tennis, Heather was also already politically astute, as Menzies commented, 'her sotto voce comments in the galleries during speeches by such favourites as Forde and Ward and Evatt are really worth going a long way to hear'.[1]

Sir Alexander Downer, one of Menzies' ministers, observed how father and daughter seemed united by a 'mystical understanding' and assessed Heather as 'the principal joy' in Menzies' life during the period he knew him.

Despite her slim figure, she resembled him in facial features, sharing the same wit, incisiveness, some of his intolerances and, occasionally, that tongue which entertained audiences but sometimes lost friends [2]

Heather lived in Canberra for long periods during Menzies' two terms as Prime Minister in 1939-41 and 1949-66. She also accompanied her parents on overseas trips, including attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Travelling with Sir Robert and Dame Pattie on an unofficial visit to Europe in 1948, Heather demonstrated her sensitivity in assessing British suffering in relation to postwar food rationing. In a letter to her brother Kenneth she described her surprise at the unexpectedly good meals they had been having:

Admittedly we've been mixing with the elite, & people with money are well fed. They can go for meals whenever they like & if they stay home they can afford to buy fruit and vegetables, which are dreadfully expensive . . . We have given a few tins of food away to maids . . . but we're quite convinced that the people who need it are the poor people - quite apart from the rationing everything is terribly expensive. I'm blowed if I know how they exist. [3]

Heather even entered the political lexicon of the day when, on one round trip including Washington, London and New Zealand in 1950, Menzies ferried a 'very special present' for his daughter, who was at the time studying music at Melbourne University:

Its nature was a deep, dark secret and he wouldn't let us in on it, but the parcel, he explained, was 'enormous', so much so that it had to be specially looked out for at every stage of his many journeys. 'Heather's parcel' was, in fact, the subject of so much discussion by the members of the party that in the end it fell into line with the current trend for abbreviation, and by the time it reached New Zealand was referred to simply by all as 'H.P'.[4]

The mysterious 'H.P' was an evening dress, spectacular pink satin skirt and purple woolen top, purchased by Menzies in New York from a shop owned by a Mrs Livingston.

He often went there and bought something for my mother or me. He would look round and pick some poor girl who looked roughly my size, and got her to try on whatever he had selected. H.P. was one of those selections.

Heather was even more in the public eye in May 1955 when she wed Peter Henderson, then Third Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Djakarta. An estimated crowd of 2000, the largest mass of onlookers in Canberra since the 1954 Royal Tour, cheered the proceedings. Decreed by Sir Owen Dixon, Chief Justice of the High Court, in his toast to the bride and groom to be a 'nationally known' figure in her own right, the now Heather Henderson received a congratulatory cable from 'All your friends in the household' of Buckingham Palace.[5]

In January 1956, Heather Henderson's return to Canberra from Djakarta signalled a new period in her life as a married woman and acted as a catalyst for the development of the city. Canberra was still very much at the teething stage, possessing a meagre population of around 30,000, bereft of many basic facilities and lacking strongly defined social or structural cohesion.

This stretched and ragged city, divided by the Molonglo flood plain, offered very little in the way of suburban infrastructure. Assisting Heather on the home search front, Menzies was struck by the reality of life in Canberra, as opposed to the more sheltered view from The Lodge.

For Heather and Dame Pattie, even taking the baby for a walk proved difficult. The footpaths were poor or non-existent. A concerted campaign of family persuasion was launched on behalf of the capital: 'I continually complained to Dad and I'm sure I had an influence in changing his attitude to the city'. According to Eric Sparke's Canberra, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, Sir William Dunk, agreed with Heather's assertion, as quite suddenly he was being 'pushed around by the awakened Prime Minister with "Why this: Why not more of that? Who is responsible?"' [6]

Under Menzies' influence a Parliamentary Committee of Enquiry was set up to examine the situation - should Canberra remain a national capital in name only, or should it be developed? The Parliamentary Committee reported in favour of development. In 1958 the National Capital Development Commission was established and granted a charter 'to design, develop and construct Canberra as the National Capital of Australia'. Up until the time of his retirement some eight years later, Menzies displayed an active interest in the capital's progress.

Canberra at last began to develop a civic atmosphere and the individuality worthy of a national capital. Sir John Overall acknowledges Canberra's rebirth 'is a reflection of the farsightedness of Robert Gordon Menzies and his interest and enthusiasm in clearing the way and making it possible for Australia's young bush capital to be planned, developed and constructed to the status of a National Capital in the world scene'. [7]

Heather and Peter Henderson have four daughters and continue to live in Canberra today.

This entry was prepared by Roslyn Russell, Museum Services, and funded by the ACT Heritage Unit.

View the full record at Australian Women's Register

Related people and organisations

Australian Women's Register

Resources for Heather Henderson

Resources by Heather Henderson (6)

  1. A smile for my parents / Heather Henderson
    Henderson, Heather, 1928-
    [ Book : 2013-2014 ]
    At 71 libraries
    A smile for my parents / Heather Henderson
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 45.535)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 45.535)

  2. Letters to my daughter : Robert Menzies, letters, 1955-1975 / Robert Menzies; edited by Heather Henderson
    Menzies, Robert Sir, 1894-1978
    [ Book, Audio book : 2011-2012 ]
    At 99 libraries
    Letters to my daughter : Robert Menzies, letters, 1955-1975 / Robert Menzies; edited by Heather Henderson
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.67)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.67)

  3. Letters to my daughter / Robert Menzies and Heather Henderson
    Menzies, Robert Sir, 1894-1978
    [ Book : 2011-2012 ]
    At 10 libraries
    Letters to my daughter / Robert Menzies and Heather Henderson
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.038)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.038)

  4. Heather Henderson interviewed by Charles Campbell
    Henderson, Heather, 1928-
    [ Sound : 2003 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 11.668)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 11.668)

  5. Papers of Heather Henderson relating to Sir Robert Menzies
    Menzies, Robert Sir, 1894-1978
    [ Unpublished : 1946-1978 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 9.428)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 9.428)

  6. Address given at the Australia Day Menzies Memorial dinner, to the Britain Australia Society, at Grosvenor House, London, on 29th January, 1980
    Menzies, Robert Sir, 1894-1978
    [ Sound : 1980 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 1.294)

    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 1.294)

Resources about Heather Henderson (5)

  1. A smile for my parents / Heather Henderson
    Henderson, Heather, 1928-
    [ Book : 2013-2014 ]
    At 71 libraries
    A smile for my parents / Heather Henderson
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 42.833)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 42.833)

  2. Letters to my daughter : Robert Menzies, letters, 1955-1975 / Robert Menzies; edited by Heather Henderson
    Menzies, Robert Sir, 1894-1978
    [ Book, Audio book : 2011-2012 ]
    At 99 libraries
    Letters to my daughter : Robert Menzies, letters, 1955-1975 / Robert Menzies; edited by Heather Henderson
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.484)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.484)

  3. Letters to my daughter / Robert Menzies and Heather Henderson
    Menzies, Robert Sir, 1894-1978
    [ Book : 2011-2012 ]
    At 10 libraries
    Letters to my daughter / Robert Menzies and Heather Henderson
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.166)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.166)

  4. Heather Henderson interviewed by Charles Campbell
    Henderson, Heather, 1928-
    [ Sound : 2003 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 11.4)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 11.4)

  5. Papers of Heather Henderson relating to Sir Robert Menzies
    Menzies, Robert Sir, 1894-1978
    [ Unpublished : 1946-1978 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 9.41)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 9.41)

No user comments for this person

Add a comment


Show comments and reviews from Amazon users

Possibly related

Digitised newspapers and more

Searching...

Minimise

Diaries, letters, archives

Searching...

Minimise

Archived websites (1996 – now)

Searching...

Minimise

Pictures, photos, objects

Searching...

Minimise

Books

Searching...

Minimise

Music, sound and video

Searching...

Minimise

People and organisations

Searching...

Minimise

Journals, articles and data sets

Searching...

Minimise

Maps

Searching...

Minimise

Lists

Searching...

Minimise

People and organisations

No results

Minimise
  1. Undy Family
    Undy Family
    Created by lundy, 452 items.

    This a collection of newspaper articles from Australia regarding members of the Undy Family 1826 to

    Keywords: Adelaide, Anderson, arrivals, blacksmith, Brighton, Brisbane, Cairns, Convicts, courts, De La Cour, Delacour, departures, Eadie, East Pearth, Education, Hobart, Melbourne, Milton, NSW, Offences, Parattah, Pears, Police, Pontville, Qld, railways, shipping, St Arnaud, Tasmania, Undy, Victoria, WA
    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0)

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0)

  2. Amphitheatre Victoria
    Amphitheatre Victoria
    Created by Hammo, 386 items.

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0)

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0)

  3. To read
    To read
    Created by LucyBaker, 57 items.

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0)

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0)

  1. Heritage trail, Vance County, Henderson, North Carolina
    Vance County (N.C.). Tourism Dept
    [ Map : 2002-2007 ]
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.134)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.134)

  2. The dynamics of disaster / Susan W. Kieffer
    Kieffer, Susan W
    [ Book, Map, Audio book : 2013 ]
    At 24 libraries
    The dynamics of disaster / Susan W. Kieffer
    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0.083)

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0.083)

  3. Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works detail plan
    Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works
    [ Map : 1895-1940 ]
    View online
    At State Library of VIC
    Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works detail plan
    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0.033)

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0.033)

  1. [Biographical cuttings on Heather Henderson, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals]
    [ Published : 1900-1990 ]
    At National Library
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.391)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.391)

  2. Papers
    Plimsoll, James Sir, 1917-1987
    [ Unpublished : 1928-1987 ]
    At National Library
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.128)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.128)

  3. Glauser, Beverly Brown
    Beverly Brown Glauser
    [ Unpublished : 1864 ]
    View online (access conditions)
    Glauser, Beverly Brown
    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0.008)

    This resource may only be vaguely related to your query: matching terms may only have been found in the full text contents of the resource (score: 0.008)

  1. Comes a horseman
    Henderson, Heat...
    Saturday Night
    [ Photograph, Article : 1986 ]
  2. Helmet of flesh
    Henderson, Heat...
    Maclean's
    [ Article, Photograph : 1986 ]
  3. Swann in love
    Henderson, Heat...
    Maclean's
    [ Article, Photograph : 1984 ]
  4. The dangerous summer
    Henderson, Heat...
    Maclean's
    [ Article, Photograph : 1985 ]
  5. The selected journals of L.M. Montg...
    Henderson, Heat...
    Maclean's
    [ Article, Photograph : 1985 ]
  6. Mothering after incest. (includes r...
    Henderson, Heat...
    Mothering
    [ Photograph, Article : 1992 ]
  1. The Victorian self : autobiography and Biblical narrative / Heather Henderson
    Henderson, Heather, 1955-
    [ Book : 1989 ]
    At 10 libraries
    The Victorian self : autobiography and Biblical narrative / Heather Henderson
    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.615)

    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.615)

  2. Searching for Grace / Carol Henderson & Heather Tovey
    Henderson, Carol, 1935-
    [ Book : 2010 ]
    At 3 libraries
    Searching for Grace / Carol Henderson & Heather Tovey
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.355)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.355)

  3. Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
    Brontë, Emily, 1818-1848
    [ Book, Audio book, Article : 1847-2013 ]
    Languages: English;Chinese;Vietnamese;Arabic, [26 others]
    Read online at Hathi Trust
    View online
    At 218 libraries
    Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.303)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.303)

  4. So you have to do a science fair project / Joyce Henderson, Heather Tomasello
    Henderson, Joyce, 1949-
    [ Book : 2002 ]
    At 6 libraries
    So you have to do a science fair project / Joyce Henderson, Heather Tomasello
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.26)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.26)

  1. Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
    Brontë, Emily, 1818-1848
    [ Book, Audio book, Article : 1847-2013 ]
    Languages: English;Chinese;Vietnamese;Arabic, [26 others]
    Read online at Hathi Trust
    View online
    At 218 libraries
    Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.303)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.303)

  2. Brain on fire : my month of madness / Susannah Cahalan
    Cahalan, Susannah
    [ Book, Audio book : 2012-2014 ]
    At 55 libraries
    Brain on fire : my month of madness / Susannah Cahalan
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.163)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.163)

  3. But remember their names / by Hillary Bell Locke ; read by Heather Henderson
    Locke, Hillary Bell
    [ Audio book : 2011 ]
    At Randwick City
    But remember their names / by Hillary Bell Locke ; read by Heather Henderson
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.154)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.154)

  4. As you like it / edited by Michael Hattaway
    Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
    [ Book, Audio book, Article : 1899-2014 ]
    Languages: English;Undetermined, [1 other]
    Read online at Open Library/Internet Archive
    View online
    At 59 libraries
    As you like it / edited by Michael Hattaway
    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.146)

    This resource may be of limited relevance to your query (score: 0.146)

  1. Website: Australian Women's Archives Project
    www.womenaustralia.info
    Matching pages:
    View 52 matching archived pages
    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.039)

    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.039)

  2. Website: Putting skirts on the sacred benches : women candidates for the New South Wales Parliament
    www.womenaustralia.info
    Matching pages:
    View 4 matching archived pages
    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.02)

    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.02)

  3. Website: AusSurvivalist.com
    www.aussurvivalist.com
    Matching pages:
    View 38 matching archived pages
    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.017)

    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.017)

  1. EXAMINATIONS. Technical Education. RESULTS FOR 1928.
    The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) Friday 1 February 1929 p 8 Article
    ... EXAMINATIONS. Technical Education. RESULTS FOR 1928. A further instalment of results of the 1928 ... . Amy Henderson, Mavis King, Nnnrv Kunu les, Beatrice II. Lake, Judith l.e«pr. Zoe Lloyd, Marjorie ... 6451 words
    • Text last corrected on 30 January 2010 by s-hindmarsh
    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.578)

    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.578)

  2. SOCIAL AND PERSONAL. Rockhampton, August 2, 1928.
    The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929) Thursday 9 August 1928 p 25 Article
    ... . When in the city they, stared st the Leichbardc HoteL Messrs. S- Henderson {west) and J. R. Walters ... August 7, 1928. Mrs. Elliott arrived from Lowroead and continued her journey west. While in the citv she ... 1210 words
    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.577)

    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.577)

  3. SYDNEY COLLEGE OF MUSIC. EXAMINATION RESULTS, 1928.
    The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) Friday 25 January 1929 p 8 Article
    ... SYDNEY COLLEGE OF MUSIC. EXAMINATION RESULTS, 1928. The following is the pass list in connection ... Henderson, Bruce Skinner, Mono! Roberts. Merlle Döring. Norma Cotlntn, .lean Parker. Thelma KeDy. Vonna ... 3555 words
    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.573)

    This resource is likely to be relevant to your query (score: 0.573)

  1. Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
    Brontë, Emily, 1818-1848
    [ Book, Audio book, Article : 1847-2013 ]
    Languages: English;Chinese;Vietnamese;Arabic, [26 others]
    Read online at Hathi Trust
    View online
    At 218 libraries
    Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.29)

    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.29)

  2. Romeo and Juliet / William Shakespeare
    Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
    [ Book, Microform, Audio book : 1597-2014 ]
    Languages: English;Chinese;Japanese;Italian, [19 others]
    Read online at Open Library/Internet Archive
    View online
    At 208 libraries
    Romeo and Juliet / William Shakespeare
    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.242)

    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.242)

  3. Cocks, Heather & Jessica Morgan: Spoiled.(Brief article)(Book review)(Young adult review)
    Henderson, Heather
    Reading Time
    [ Article : 2012 ]
    View online (conditions apply)
    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.201)

    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.201)

  4. Launching Menzies' child [With introduction by Charlton, Peter and responses by Henderson, Gerard and Tredinnick, Mark.]
    Henderson, Heather
    Sydney Papers
    [ Article : 1995 ]
    View online (conditions apply)
    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.194)

    This resource may have relevance to your query (score: 0.194)