Founding Co-Chair retires from Reconciliation Australia Board

Reconciliation Australia’s founding Co-Chair The Hon Fred Chaney AO will step down from his position as Board Director at the end of this year—after almost 15 years on the Board.

Current Co-Chairs Dr Tom Calma AO and Ms Melinda Cilento commended Mr Chaney for his long-standing contributions to reconciliation—contributions that were recognised earlier this year with the 2014 Senior Australian of the Year Award.

“As founding Co-Chair, Fred has worked tirelessly towards the goals of reconciliation and Reconciliation Australia is indebted to his energy and passion, which show no signs of abating,” Dr Calma said.

“At a time of life when many people are content to enjoy the benefits of retirement, Fred has continued his work; travelling, talking, delivering speeches and above all else listening to the concerns of ordinary Australians, black and white, and fighting to ensure that their voices are heard in the corridors of power.”

Formerly a lawyer, Mr Chaney was an early advocate for Aboriginal voting rights and established the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia. He served as a Liberal Senator for WA (1974-90), a Member of the House of Representatives (1990-93) and held various Ministerial appointments in the Fraser government, including Aboriginal Affairs.

For many years, Mr Chaney was Deputy President of the National Native Title Tribunal and, more recently, Chair of Desert Knowledge Australia. He was also instrumental in establishing the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation, which supports young Indigenous people to reach their potential.

Ms Cilento said Mr Chaney’s role as mentor and calm adviser is widely acknowledged, and is one that will be greatly missed on the Board of Reconciliation Australia.

“Fred’s life-long dedication to improving conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is characterised by an unbroken respect for those he works with, and an assurance that the voices and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are paramount. He has played such an important role in the development of Reconciliation Australia and we thank him for his outstanding work,” Ms Cilento said.

Dr Calma echoed Ms Cilento’s comments and added: “It is without doubt Fred is an Elder of reconciliation and we will continue his legacy so that one day we can all wake to a reconciled, just and equitable Australia.”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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