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Monday, 2 April 1984
Page: 1026

Senator PETER RAE(3.26) —I join with my colleagues Senator Baume and Senator Teague in welcoming and congratulating Charlie Perkins and Lois O' Donoghue on their appointments. I first came to know Charlie Perkins at a later stage, in particular when I was shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the period when we were in opposition in the earlier part of the 1970s. I formed then and continue to hold a very high opinion of both his capacity and the sensitivity with which he has fulfilled the very peculiar role which he has had. As Senator Baume said, his role has been very difficult in that it involved both moving up through, and carrying out an important function in, the Australian Public Service as well as, of necessity, being involved in a degree of Aboriginal politics. That is an area of politics in which radicalism and very strong feelings have been engendered by some of the history and past experiences of the people involved.

I have found Charles Perkins one of the truly great people in his ability to walk the tightrope of satisfying the demand for action on the part of people who in other countries have become revolutionaries. Along with former Senator Neville Bonner who, I think, is in the precincts of the House today, he has played an extremely important part in the reconciliation of the legitimate demand that Australian Aboriginal people obtain a more equitable place in Australian society and the Australian economy. They have been able to see that happen without the trouble which has been experienced in some other countries and without the degree of extremism which has been experienced in other countries. I believe that we owe a lot to people such as Neville Bonner, Charles Perkins, Lois O'Donoghue and others who have been able at the one time to be outspoken without being revolutionary. Rational conclusion has been able to be reached and a public awareness has been able to be created. I believe that these people have played a tremendously important part in the development of this country. The whole of Australia is indebted to them for the moderate but effective role which they have been able to play. I warmly join with my colleagues in making my comments on this particular announcement.