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Neville Bonner Biography
Neville Bonner (28 March 1922 - 5 February 1999), Australian politician, was the first Aboriginal person to be elected to the Parliament of Australia.

He was born at Ukerabagh, a small settlement near Tweed Heads in northern New South Wales. He never knew his father and had almost no formal education. He worked as a farm labourer before settling on Palm Island, near Townsville, Queensland in 1946, where he rose to the position of Assistant Settlement Overseer.

In 1960 he moved to Ipswich, where he joined the board of directors of the One People Australia League (OPAL), a moderate Aboriginal rights organisation. He became its Queensland president in 1970. He joined the Liberal Party in 1967 and held local office in the party. In 1971 he was chosen to fill a Senate vacancy created by the resignation of a Liberal Senator, thus becoming the first Aboriginal person to sit in the Australian Parliament. He was elected in his own right in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1980.

While in the Senate he served on a number of committees but was never a serious candidate for promotion to the ministry. He rebelled against the Liberal Party line on some issues. Partly as a result of this, and partly due to pressure from younger candidates, he was dropped from the Liberal Senate ticket at the 1983 election. He stood as an independent and was nearly successful. The Hawke government appointed him to the board of directors of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1979 he was named Australian of the Year. In 1984 he was awarded the title Officer of the Order of Australia. From 1992 to 1996 he was member of the Griffith University Council. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1993. In 1998 he was elected to Constitutional Convention as a candidate of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. Bonner was an elder of the Jagera people. He died on 5 February 1999 at Ipswich.

Bonner was almost unique in being an Aboriginal activist and a political conservative: in fact he owed his political career to this fact. In the face of often savage personal criticism from radical Aboriginal activists, he often denied being a "token" in the Liberal Party, but the way that he was unceremoniously dumped in 1983 seemed to many to confirm the charge.
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Neville Bonner.