Athlete’s family join push for civil rights monument

September 13, 2017

Peter Norman (left) at the iconic medal ceremony.

ECHUCA-MOAMA’S link to a 1968 Olympics’ civil rights campaign will soon be commemorated on a yearly basis thanks to the Peter Norman Commemoration Committee.

The new committee will be launched at noon today in Swanston St, Melbourne, to campaign for the establishment of a significant interactive monument in the soon to be redeveloped Melbourne City Square in recognition of Olympian Peter Norman.

Norman was a 200m silver medallist in the 1968 Olympics and made history when he supported two African-American athletes campaigning for civil rights during the medal ceremony.

His Echuca-based family Janita, Gary and Sandy (Kadri) — children from his first marriage to wife Ruth — were named as patrons on the committee along with his mother Thelma and daughters Emma and Belinda, children from his second marriage to wife Jan.

Norman died of a heart attack in 2006 at age 64 and the anniversary of his funeral on October 9 will mark the date for yearly commemorations to be held in his honour.

Janita said her father would have been supportive of promoting the cause and the stand he took.

‘‘It would have never been something he asked for himself,’’ she said.

‘‘He was never one for self-recognition, but our family all agreed this is something he would’ve wanted. He was proud of the stand he took.

‘‘We’ve (the patrons and family) given out support to the committee to go down this path and feel it’s a worth while reason to commemorate.’’

October 9 has already been declared Peter Norman Day by the US Track and Field Federation.

Janita and her sister Sandy will be at the launch today and hoped the event will help gain some traction and support from Melbourne City Council for the monument.

‘‘Even 50 years on the message has such an importance and is still relevant now,’’ Janita said.

‘‘On some levels his actions are more well known in America than here.

‘‘If more Australians can be aware of that moment in history because of it, then that’s a really good outcome.’’

The committee aimed to highlight Melbourne as one of the world’s most successful multicultural cities and acknowledge the brave, dignified and moral stand Norman took in the struggle for universal human rights.

His actions saw him reprimanded by the Australian Olympic Committee by way of his exclusion from the Munich 1972 Olympics and exclusion from celebrations surrounding the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

The monument would go a long way in rectifying this treatment and seeing Norman recognised and celebrated as the hero he was.

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