'She ruled the roost': Robert Menzies' daughter looks back

0:00

Behind every great man is a great woman, such was the case with Australia's longest serving Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. In a new memoir, his daughter gives new insight into how her father achieved his political success.

Wife, mother, election trump card - Dame Pattie Menzies wore many hats, not least of all, prime minister's wife.  As her daughter declares, "She was the boss, she ruled the roost."

Heather Henderson's memoir is no Mommie Dearest.  A Smile For My Parents is what she calls a "hagiography", glowing with nostalgia and steeped in the everyday appeal of one of the most remarkable political partnerships in Australian history.

As the wife and key supporter of Australia's longest-serving prime minister, Dame Pattie Menzies knew the value of being a jack of all trades. 

One week it would be accompanying Sir Robert Menzies on an overseas trip that included an interaction with the Royal Family. 

The next it would be making and delivering jam preserves - made by her own hand at The Lodge, of course - to harried bureaucrats working overtime.

"Somebody heard someone say 'Oh I don't know about that old Pig Iron Bob, but the little lady...she's all right.  I don't mind voting for her'," daughter Heather recalled.

She also remembered some wonderful moments spent with her remarkable father, in particular the way his oratorical powers rose above the fray.

"You can't get a message across - as people do now - by reading something, particularly well.  He talked to his audience, he talked to people," she said.

"He wanted them to understand and he learnt how to do it."

Click on the second clip in the video player to watch the full interview.

Source SBS

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch