My name is Janita Norman, I am Peter's eldest daughter. I am honoured to represent my family this evening. Attending tonight are Peter’s children Sandra Kadri, Gary, Belinda and Emma Norman, his 6 grandchildren, sister Elaine, her husband Michael, nephew John. Thelma Norman Peter's mother, my mum Ruth and Belinda and Emma’s mum Jan. I thank the AOC for hosting a wonderful celebration of Dad’s achievements tonight.
My brother and sisters assure me that being the family spokesperson is one of the responsibilities of the eldest child and at risk of revealing my age, their claim that I was the only child born prior to the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games further justifies to them ...my taking on this task tonight.
We are delighted at the AOC’s decision to honour Peter.... the announcement caused much excitement within our family, both smiles and tears – it evoked many emotions. About time?? Or Timed to perfection - What a great thing to happen this year, the 50th anniversary of the Mexico Olympic Games. A year of celebration, of recognition and of reflection of Dad’s life and his achievements.
It is sad that Peter is not here to receive the award, we know that he would be incredibly proud, humbled and ‘chuffed’ for the recognition bestowed upon him by the Australian Olympic Committee. He was often uncomfortable with recognition but I think in his own cool and calm way – even he would have struggled to conceal his elation at being recognised as one of our country’s great athletes.
We thank the AOC for recognising and acknowledging Peter's sporting achievements, his ongoing contribution to sport and for acknowledging the stand he made in support of his fellow athletes on the victory dais in 1968. His sporting career which encompassed Australian championships, Representing Australia at Empire, Pan Pacific and Commonwealth Games, the Olympic silver medal and the long standing Australian 200metres record. Fifty years holding the Australian record is in itself worthy of celebration.
In the past there has been conjecture over Peters place within his own sporting community, the award is recognition for a great athlete, and for a humanitarian and sends a clear message that Peter is accepted and recognised as he should be.
It is difficult to imagine any of these important achievements in isolation as it is a combination of all these things that have combined to make Peter Norman the unique story that is.
What if he had just run the race, won the medal and not been involved anything controversial – surely that would have been easier?
The race..... that incredible race, I have seen it countless times and I still hold my breath from that moment where there is that explosion of power on the home straight, as I lean forward toward the finish line, hold my breath ..... and then YES!!!
I have heard it said many times that his stand cast a shadow over what should have been a moment of sporting glory - an Olympic silver medal, an amazing athletic performance finishing second to split the two incredibly strong, formidable columns of pure power – Tommie Smith & John Carlos
As a child, with no understanding of the issues or the bigger picture, I was unsure if my father was a Hero or if he had done something to be ashamed of … a view that has now been replaced with understanding and admiration for standing up for his belief that “every man is born equal”
What I was sure about, was that Peter Norman landed on the world stage and in many ways became public property. The moment in time that he changed from being Dad, husband, son, brother....to part of history, that moment in time that is so familiar to us, captured forever in that iconic image.
I recall ---- Talking to an interested person a few years ago about the 68 Olympics-----I mentioned that my father won a silver medal in the 200metres -----I said “I’m sure you know the image, the one with the two African American athletes stand together with the little known Australian athlete – on the victory dais receiving their medals – taking a stand for civil rights – to which they said.............. - OMG -----I know that image---- That is incredible---so which one is your dad???
So - Why Peter Norman?
Throughout Peter's life he touched many people personally or by identification with his story. He had an incredible sporting ability and the ability to motivate and inspire others.
You couldn’t help but like Peter, he was charismatic – He believed in people and people believed in him. He made lasting impressions on people. Over the years I have had countless people say to me..... .I met your father........... he was amazing................. .and they would share their story.
He was passionate about sport and athletics and hoped for the day that his record would be broken as this would be a demonstration of the competitive spirit, which he valued highly.
During his life he mentored young athletes and continues to inspire Australian sprinters who challenge themselves to better Peter’s record times and achievements. He often addressed groups of students, not to talk about his own achievements but to inspire and encourage, to talk about doing your absolute best, challenging yourself and being persistent.
Dad was generous with his time in many sporting areas, presenting medals, encouraging young kids, assisting with the Tri State games. He valued people’s sporting endeavours at any level with any ability.
It is not only in the sporting realm that Dad is held in high regard, Peter Norman is known as a Humanitarian, embraced by communities, groups and individuals who aspire to uphold the values for which he stood. He wasn't a political activist, he was clear and steadfast in his belief.
Primary and secondary school students study Social justice and Human rights as part of their course of studies. In a country that holds its sports men and women in high esteem Dad’s sporting achievements coupled with his courageous stand provide the perfect platform from which to convey the important message of acceptance, equality and inclusion to our children.
This is not a story that hides in history. This is a story that has its own life force, one which is constantly evolving and is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, a story that is strengthening with added meaning over time and not diminishing.
A story that did not end in 2006 with Dad’s passing, since then it has gathered momentum as our society in many ways is more aware and ready to embrace the values of equality, inclusion and fundamental human rights.
For our family, it is important that Peter’s legacy continues, that Peter Norman is known as an important Australian sportsman and that his message resonates with each up and coming generation.
In the words of John Carlos ...... 'tell your children about Peter Norman'
Last year I received a message from a 12 year old student from the Bahamas. Beau was preparing his final important school assignment in preparation for his junior school graduation. His presentation was titled “Racism in Sport”
His message was so simple and so powerful, it moved our family to tears
His message read:
“My teacher (Ms Waterhouse) and I have been very touched by the story of your father and his courage during the 1968 Olympics. I know he is no longer alive but I still want to say THANK YOU to him for doing something so brave.”
This is Beau with his friends...........
Dad would have been overwhelmed by Beau’s message and this wonderful image, as we were.
Beau received a standing ovation, when he presented his project, spoke about Peter Norman and mentioned that he had reached out to Peter’s family.
This is the reason the story continues, this is why we need to recognise Peter Norman and why it is important to share the story with future generations
The Order of Merit is an important part of the progression of Dad’s story. Powerful and meaningful recognition by the Australian Olympic Committee that they value the sporing achievement of Peter Norman, his long standing Australian record and also the impact that his stand of support has made and continues to make to our society.
On behalf our family we are honoured to receive the Order on behalf of Peter.