Kevin T. Kelly

Kevin Thomas Kelly (1910–1994) was born on 6 May 1910 at Ballaarat, Victoria, eldest of five surviving children of John Kelly, railway fettler, and his wife Lucy Ann, née Cull, both Victorian-born.

Kevin excelled as a scholar, leaving De La Salle College, Malvern, as dux in 1927. Following the death of his father he became responsible for supporting his mother and sisters. After teaching briefly at Toorak Central School, he joined the Victorian Crown Solicitor’s Office in 1928, working in the children’s welfare branch. Balancing study with full-time work, he graduated from the University of Melbourne (BA, 1932; LLB, 1940).

Kelly had joined the Campion Society in 1931, becoming a central personality among a group of Catholics keen to infuse their faith with social activism. Recruiting new members, he promoted the society by travelling throughout Australia, and established the Melbourne Catholic Evidence Guild. A disciple of Joseph Cardijn’s Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne (Young Christian Workers), he played a key role in introducing the JOC’s ideas into Australia and was equally instrumental in the formation of Catholic Action (about which he published a pamphlet in 1939). With one of the earliest Campion recruits, B. A. Santamaria, he helped establish the Catholic Worker.

Although in February 1939 Kelly had enlisted in the Melbourne University Rifles, Citizen Military Force, his World War II service was with the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Appointed as a paymaster sub-lieutenant on 21 July 1942, promoted to lieutenant in November, and transferred to the Special Branch in January 1943, he performed intelligence duties in Australia (1943–44), Papua (1944–45), New Guinea (1945), and Netherlands New Guinea (1945). He was demobilised in Australia on 13 September 1945, remaining in the RANVR until 1958.


Matthew Jordan, Kevin Thomas Kelly (Australian Dictionary of Biography)


Courtesy of the Kelly family

Biographical article on Kevin Kelly published by the Australian YCW, Young Worker in Action, No. 5 September 1981

Letter to the Editor, Young Worker in Action, November 1981