From a well-known mid north farming family, Bert Kelly was prominent in agricultural affairs, including soil conservation, the South Australia Agricultural Advisory Board, and the CSIRO.
In 1958 Bert Kelly succeeded fellow Old Red Sir Philip McBride in the Federal seat of Wakefield, which he held until his retirement in 1977. During his term in parliament, Kelly held the ministerial portfolios of Public Works, and Navy. His agricultural knowledge was also appreciated at high levels, and in 1961 he was sent by the Australian Government to investigate the sheep industry in Nepal.
Through the Stock Journal, particularly as author of his A modest member columns, Bert Kelly established a reputation as a spokesman of the interests of the man on the land.