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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4076

Mr GRAY (BrandSpecial Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and Integrity) (09:33): I rise to note the passing earlier this year of Chris Clare, the former CEO of Warmun. Chris was born in 1942 and raised in Chatswood, Sydney. He was an excellent athlete with a love of Rugby League and cricket, sports he continued to play long after leaving school. Chris started out as a patrol officer in the then Welfare Branch, later becoming the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the Northern Territory. In the late 1960s Chris was posted to Yeundumu, where he was superintendent. Chris was then advanced to senior positions within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the Northern Territory and New South Wales. In 1976 Chris took a role as one of six experienced field area officers in New South Wales, responsible for the strip of coastal land east of the great divide from Queensland's border to the Hawkesbury River. Chris moved to Darwin in the late 1970s to work for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In the 1980s he began as one of the early general managers of the Northern Land Council. It was there that I first met Chris. Chris eventually became the regional—that is, state—director for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in New South Wales and then the general manager for Aboriginal arts and crafts.

Chris was always a passionate, practical man, and these characteristics eventually took him back into the field in Warmun in the East Kimberley in 2006. Chris and I would again cross paths when I began to spend time in the East Kimberley in 2008. Chris's experience throughout Australia would later be of significant benefit to the people of Warmun. Chris always had a great respect for traditional Aboriginal culture. He was a believer in the importance of ceremony and spiritual belief and was a supporter of two-way learning as a central tenet of reconciliation. Chris also had skills so often lacking in remote communities: his strong administrative capacity in managing program funding for the benefit of the community. This skill underpinned his successful leadership in Warmun in recent years.

Over his period in Warmun, Chris was to use the experience gained in over 40 years of work in Aboriginal affairs to re-establish Warmun as a source of pride to the Aboriginal community located there. He was a principled advocate for social justice and made sure that the people of Warmun were afforded as many opportunities as were available to them. The way he responded to the flash flood crisis in Warmun last year, 2½ years into his battle with cancer, epitomised the man. At this community's darkest hour, Chris was there to make sure everyone evacuated safely.

Chris will be missed by his wife, Cherrelle. His wise counsel and advocacy, cherished by the people of Warmun, will be sadly missed.