Robert Semple is remembered as a leading New Zealand politician and a dominant figure in the labour movement between 1904 and 1954. However, Semple was an Australian by birth and always remained firmly attached to that country in a complex relationship — he was very much an ‘Australian New Zealander’. Over the course of his public career Semple blurred his Australian roots, later in life deliberately reconstructing his father’s convict past, treating it as a more conventional immigration story. His account of his decision to come to New Zealand was also later shaped by the requirement of gaining and holding of political power. He de-emphasised the radical context of his move to New Zealand. But Semple’s origins were undeniably important to him. Whenever his health failed him he returned to Australia to rejuvenate himself. His life is a case study in the complex issue of national identity — while a proud New Zealander his grandchildren also remember him as an Australian who enjoyed singing Waltzing Matilda.