Parliament today passed my motion of apology to Peter Norman (with no dissenting voices). Here’s the motion, with the third paragraph tweaked into a more general apology than originally drafted:
DR LEIGH: That this House:
(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;
(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘black power’ salute;
(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the treatment he received upon his return to Australia, and the failure to fully recognise his inspirational role before his untimely death in 2006; and
(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.
Here’s my speech to parliament in moving the original motion. My additional remarks on the day the motion was passed are below.
Peter Norman, 11 October 2012
The apology to Peter Norman recognises a great Australian who stood with the black power protestors at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. This amendment simply broadens that apology in that it apologises to Peter Norman for the treatment that he received upon his return to Australia and for the failure to fully recognise his inspirational role before his untimely death in 2006.
I would like to thank members on both sides of the House who spoke in this debate. Thelma Norman, Peter’s mum, was here in the gallery when we debated the motion and it meant a great deal to her. I have been in contact with Peter’s sister, Elaine, and she has told me about the outpouring of public support that was received. A local school in Queensland got each of their students to go back and research the Peter Norman story to find out what it meant to them and to think about how each of them could be a Peter Norman in their own lives, how they could take a stand against racism and intolerance and make those snap decisions that come along with so little warning but that mark the character of an individual, as they marked Peter Norman’s character.
I am grateful to those in this House and in the broader community for their support for this motion and I trust that the amendment to the motion, which provides a broad, community-wide apology to Peter Norman for his treatment upon his return from Mexico, will be accepted unanimously by this House as an apology posthumously to Peter Norman. It is something that I know will mean a great deal to Peter’s family, friends and the huge family of supporters across Australia.