The son of a Methodist minister, Robert Richard U'Ren was born on 9 December 1925 in Queensland and educated in Melbourne. By 1953 he had completed three years of a Diploma in Civil Engineering at the Ballarat School of Mines. Apparently U'Ren had misgivings about his chosen vocation and in 1954 he joined the Methodist ministry. In accordance with the church he began his six year probationary period and enrolled at the University of Melbourne. The ministry advised that their students complete four years at Queen's College studying theological and university subjects. Motivated by an intense interest in social and political issues, U'Ren began a B.A. Diploma in Social Studies, majoring in psychology.
In April 1958, after graduating, U'Ren was immediately appointed Research Worker for the Brotherhood of St. Laurence's study on community life. He was appointed by David Scott, the Director of Social Services at the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Early in 1958 and under Scott's direction, L.J. Tierney, Director of Social Work of the Citizen's Welfare Service, and Dr. P.J. Fensham of the University of Melbourne, had agreed to act with David Scott as a Steering Committee. The research study had developed out of the Brotherhood's interest in community life and leisure time, and concerns about the needs of an Australian housing estate.
U'Ren constructed and modified the detailed questionnaire, consulted with community leaders and officers of other organisations, supervised the eight recruited interviewers and co-wrote the report's analysis. Over 200 respondents living in the suburb of Braybrook provided the basic data for the report and contributed a total of approximately 350 hours through sessional interviews.
In 1959 U'Ren resigned as the only full-time member of the study and embarked on a new research project conducted by Geoffrey Sharpe, Acting Professor from the Social Studies Department at the University of Melbourne. The emphasis was on epilepsy and the prevailing attitudes and prejudices the condition provoked in the wider community. As a consequence of U'Ren's new study, the completion of the leisure survey was a part-time venture. It was eventually published in 1962 under the authorship of David Scott and Robert U'Ren as "Leisure: A Social Enquiry into Leisure and Needs in an Australian Housing Estate". The study on epilepsy (which was not entirely popular) was never published.
In 1960 U'Ren was appointed Minister of the Richmond Methodist Church. The Study on Church and People began the same year, under the direction of Reverend U'Ren and Reverend Alan F. Reid of the Presbyterian Church. The population covered by the questionnaire-based study was all known adherents of the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Richmond.
A decade later, Reverend U'Ren became the Director of the Hanover Welfare Services which further compounded his interest in social and political issues.
U'Ren retired in 1992.
Reverend Robert Richard U'Ren married Nancy Morris Barton in Launceston, Tasmania. The couple had four children - Rachel, Allison, Greg and Andrew.