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Parliament Apologises to Peter Norman

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.

2 Comments

  1. Chris Wilson says:

    Thank you and I am so pleased that Parliament has officially apologised to Peter Norman. But I think the job is not yet complete. Peter stood for what he believed, and paid a horrible price. He was roundly criticised by our own press at the time. Despite having the qualified for both the 100m and 200m events at the Munich Olympics multiple times and being the fourth fastest 200m sprinter in the world that year, he was not selected for the Munich Olympics. The snub by the AOC and IOC continued when he was not invited to the Sydney 2000 Olympic games. In the end he attended, but as a guest of the USA team who were outraged that he was not invited. Yet, the AOC still maintains that he was never blacklisted. What a joke! The AOC has never recognised Australia’s fastest sprinter of all time. A man who still holds the Australian record for 200m and a man who stood for human rights, but in the process, he did not toe the line and was punished until his death for doing so. Where are our journalists? Does anyone remember what Peter Norman did and what he sacrificed? Why don’t those in the press who have a voice, stand up for Peter Norman and demand an apology from the AOC for the appalling treatment he received? Thank you Parliament. Thank you Andrew Leigh. But the final step is an apology from the AOC and to give Peter Norman the recognition he deserves for his sporting efforts and for his stance on human rights.

  2. Ray Brindle says:

    Good on you, Andrew (and Rob Oakeshott). The AOC is in denial. I knew Peter back in those days – we both ran with EMH – and I can clearly recall the treatment he got from the Establishment. It didn’t treat our clubmate Greg Lewis any better either. Peter was a gentle, determined man of high principles and his achievement in Mexico City was remarkable. I agree with Chris Wilson that, apology or not, the AOC and AA need to put Peter back into our athletics history. He has been airbrushed out for too long. Keep at them!