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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4458

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (17:06): I rise on this condolence motion to honour Murray Rose. It was the 1956 Melbourne Olympics that put Australian swimming on the world map, and the name Murray Rose is synonymous with that Olympics. In today's condolence motion, I am honoured to pay tribute to one of Australia's greatest ever swimmers and a true Australian legend.

The Melbourne Olympics also featured legends such as Dawn Fraser, John Konrads, Betty Cuthbert and John Landy. At the end of that Olympics, Australia held every freestyle title in men and women's swimming. For his part, Murray Rose won three gold medals in the 400-metre, the 1,500-meter and the four-by-200-metre freestyle relay. This made him the first swimmer in 36 years to win both the 400- and the 1500-metre events at the one Olympics. With Betty Cuthbert dubbed the 'golden girl' of the Melbourne Olympics, 17-year-old Murray Rose became the 'golden boy', with his blond hair and rugged good looks.

His diet was a source of fascination with the media. Rose and his family were strict vegetarians. Rose had never eaten meat, poultry or seafood. To fuel his swimming, his mother fed him a muscle-building formula made from Irish kelp. This earned him another nickname, the 'Seaweed Streak'. He went on to win a fourth gold medal as well as a silver and a bronze at the Rome Olympics in 1960 and four gold medals at the Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962. In total, he won seven Australian swimming championship titles and set 15 world records.

While he is best known for his stellar swimming career, Murray Rose led a varied and interesting life. Following his success at the Melbourne Olympics, he was offered a sports scholarship at the University of Southern California. It was here that he studied drama and television and was best known for his appearance in the 1964 film Ride the Wild Surf, in which he was cast as an Aussie surfer. But a movie contract got in the way of a qualifying competition before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. While it is thought that he had one more Olympics in him, Rose never got the chance to compete.

Murray Rose was a true Australian, who pined to come home for the 31 years that he lived in the US. From the time of his return in the late 1980s, he became involved in a number of charities, including the Rainbow Club, which provided swimming lessons to children with disabilities. Rose became patron of the club in 1999 and, in 2008, he sought to establish the Rainbow Club Malabar Magic Ocean Swim event, raising more than $40,000 for children.

Murray Rose was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965, after being voted Australia's greatest male Olympian. In 1985 he was also inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. He was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for his services to swimming and was also award the Centenary Medal in 2001 for his services to Australian society. As our Australian Olympic team prepares to head to London in a few months, what better inspiration could there be for an athlete than to strive for gold. Certainly, the great Australian swimmers of recent times, including Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, name him as an idol and a source of inspiration. Kieren Perkins described Rose as his mentor. I offer my condolences to Murray's wife, Jodi, and his children. He will be known as a great Australian legend.