Parishioner named finalist in Australian of the Year

15 Jan 2009

By The Record

By Anthony Barich
CLAREMONT parishioner and former Federal minister Fred Chaney AO as been announced as a WA finalist for Senior Australian of the Year.
Mr Chaney, a law graduate of the University of WA and former co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and still chair of Desert Knowledge Australia, spent 30 years working to advance the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, starting his career as a Crown prosecutor in Papua New Guinea.
He told The Record that his work springs from being a Catholic and Jesus’ command to love others, especially the poorest of the poor.
He says that preference to the poor, love of fellow man and finding Christ in ourselves is the key to Christian life, and says that “the Church is at its best” when this is done.
“We should never accept the world as it is, but work to make the world a better place, however imperfect people are,” said Mr Chaney, who co-founded the Law Society of WA’s Legal Advice Bureau and helped establish the State’s Aboriginal Legal Advice Service for which he worked as a volunteer in the early 1970s.
He served as Liberal Senator for WA and as the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Australian Catholic University’s former Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Sheehan, said that Mr Chaney’s “ongoing commitment to reconciliation, native title issues and improved access to legal aid, among other causes, is testament to his political integrity and social justice vision”.
Perth Catholic evangelist Eddie Russell, founder of the charismatic Association of Christ’s Faithful called Flame Ministries International, was also nominated for Australian of the Year by Willagee parishioner Elda Ruoff. Mr Russell, a Catholic evangelist of 30 years since his conversion after immersing himself in various cults and lifestyles, was stunned upon receiving a personally signed letter from National Australia Day Council chairman and Australian Test vice-captain Adam Gilchrist on December 19.
“I must say that, even though the letter said that I did not make the final choice, the fact that I was nominated for Australia’s highest honour of a citizen, is in itself an award, and I confess to feeling a deep sense of humility and gratitude when I read the letter,” he told The Record.
Elda Ruoff said that she nominated him having been transformed by his preaching in the Thursday evening praise and worship sessions that she has attended for the past three years at the Cathedral Parish Centre on Hay Street in Perth city. “I nominated him first and foremost to uplift the Church and give glory to God, as you never see religious identities in the Australia Day nominations,” she said.
“His contribution has been amazing. He’s such a gifted preacher; he delivers the Gospel like no one else,”  with such passion and dedication.”