A member of the Gamay clan of the Guugu Yimithirr people, Deeral was born at Hope Vale Lutheran Mission in Cape York, Queensland and educated at Woorabinda, to which he was evacuated during World War II. Deeral left school at 13 and worked as a labourer and stockman before becoming Chairman of the Hope Vale Mission Community Council in 1957.
Joining the Country Party, Deeral worked with the Queensland Department of Aboriginal Affairs and won pre-selection for the Queensland state seat of Cook (which covered Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands) for the 1974 Queensland state election. Normally a safe Labor seat, Deeral won Cook as part of a landslide win to the National (as the Country Party had been renamed) and Liberal Party coalition. Deeral's victory was considered to be due to the proposal of Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's plan to realign Australia's Torres Strait border with Papua New Guinea. Deeral became the second Indigenous Australian to be elected to an Australian parliament, after Neville Bonner's election to the Australian Senate in 1969, and the first to a state or territory parliament.
While in parliament Deeral advocated for improved roads in his electorate to help develop tourism and other industries, as well as securing improvements to locals schools and medical access. In the lead up to the 1977 state election, Deeral's chances of reelection were hurt when the Queensland Government deferred a national eye health program for Aboriginals currently underway in the electorate of Cook due to allegations of members of the program campaigning for the Labor Party. At the election, Deeral lost his seat in a swing away from the Nationals, with the deferral of the eye health program given as a factor in the loss.
Following the election loss, Deeral continued to work with local Aboriginal communities, becoming the inaugural chair of the Aboriginal Coordination Council in 1985 and in 1987 was a delegate to the World Heritage Committee session in Paris, as well as appointed as Chairman of the Legislation Review Committee that examined Queensland legislation and its impact on Aboriginal land rights during the early 1990s.
From 1998 to 2003, Deeral was a member of the Wet Tropics Management Authority Board and in July 2002 was appointed interim chair of the Yalanji Ang-Narra Yimidihirr Peoples Council, as well as taking an active role as a Guugu Yimithirr Elder.
|Parliament of Queensland|
|Member for Cook
Footnotes and citations
- Queensland Parliament, "Biography of First Indigenous State Member" Factsheet 7.5.
- Stateline (Queensland), "Interview with former indigenous MP Eric Deeral" (broadcast 18 July 2003), http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/qld/content/2003/s905149.htm, accessed 17 November 2011.
- Lunn, p.137.
- Green, Antony. "Cook". 2009 Queensland Election Guide. abc.net.au. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
- Lunn, p. 223.
- Lunn, p. 224.
- "Indigenous Youth Parliament renamed". Brisvaani Radio. Brisvaani. Retrieved 20 June 2012.