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Fred Chaney
Recognise Campaign Fred Chaney Presser.jpg
Chaney in 2014
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
9 May 1989 – 3 April 1990
Leader Andrew Peacock
Preceded by Andrew Peacock
Succeeded by Peter Reith
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
In office
11 March 1983 – 27 February 1990
Preceded by John Button
Succeeded by Robert Hill
Minister for Social Security
In office
3 November 1980 – 11 March 1983
Preceded by Margaret Guilfoyle
Succeeded by Don Grimes
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
In office
5 December 1978 – 3 November 1980
Preceded by Ian Viner
Succeeded by Peter Baume
Minister for Administrative Services
In office
25 August 1978 – 5 December 1978
Preceded by Peter Durack
Succeeded by John McLeay
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Pearce
In office
24 March 1990 – 8 February 1993
Preceded by New division
Succeeded by Judi Moylan
Senator for Western Australia
In office
18 May 1974 – 27 February 1990
Preceded by Syd Negus
Succeeded by Ian Campbell
Personal details
Born (1941-10-28) 28 October 1941 (age 82)
Perth, Western Australia
Political party Liberal (to 1995)
Spouse Angela Clifton
Relations Fred Chaney Sr. (father)
Michael Chaney (brother)
John Chaney (brother)
Kate Chaney (niece)
Children 3
Alma mater University of Western Australia

Frederick Michael Chaney, AO (born 28 October 1941) is an Australian former politician who was deputy leader of the Liberal Party from 1989 to 1990 and served as a minister in the Fraser government. He was a Senator for Western Australia from 1974 to 1990, and then served a single term in the House of Representatives from 1990 to 1993.

Chaney was born in Perth, the son of Sir Frederick Chaney. He was a lawyer before entering politics, graduating from the University of Western Australia. Chaney was elected to the Senate at the 1974 federal election. He held several portfolios in the Fraser government, serving in the ministry from 1978 until the government's defeat at the 1983 election. From 1983 to 1990, Chaney served as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. He was elected deputy leader of the Liberal Party in 1989, under Andrew Peacock, but served less than a year before being replaced by Peter Reith. Chaney transferred to the House of Representatives at the 1990 election, but served only a single term. After leaving politics he focused on indigenous policy matters, serving on the National Native Title Tribunal (1994–2007), as co-chair of Reconciliation Australia (2000–2005), and as co-founder and Vice-President of The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation (1995–current).

Early life

Chaney was born in Perth, Western Australia, the son of Sir Frederick Chaney (a minister in the Menzies government). His six siblings include businessman Michael Chaney and judge John Chaney. Chaney was educated at Aquinas College, Perth, and the University of Western Australia. He practised law and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in Western Australia in 1963. He spent two years practising in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Chaney helped found the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia in 1973.


Chaney first attempted to enter politics at the 1971 Ascot by-election, running for the state Legislative Assembly. He was elected to federal parliament as a Senator for Western Australia for the Liberal Party at the 1974 election. He was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 1983 until 1990 when he became the first member for the Division of Pearce in the House of Representatives, a position he held until 1993. Although still a Senator at the time, Chaney was named deputy leader of the Liberal Party in May 1989. He retained this post until April 1990, two months after transferring to the lower house.

He was elected Deputy Leader as part of the successful coup that saw Andrew Peacock overthrowing John Howard. This was seen as a betrayal by Howard as he and Chaney had been close friends prior to the coup.

Chaney was ousted as deputy leader after the 1990 election, when he unsuccessfully recontested the position in a field of eight candidates and came in third.

Chaney had earlier defeated Reith for the deputy's position in the leadership coup that ousted Howard in May 1989 in which Reith was Howard's running mate.

Chaney was Minister for Administrative Services from August to December 1978, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs from December 1978 until November 1980 and Minister for Social Security from November 1980 until the defeat of the Fraser government at the 1983 election. He was also Minister Assisting the Minister for Education from August 1978 to December 1979 and Minister Assisting the Minister for National Development and Energy from December 1979 to November 1980.

When Chaney retired in 1993, John Hewson unexpectedly led the Coalition to defeat at that year's election and it is the opinion of analyst and commentator Antony Green that Chaney could have succeeded him as Liberal leader had he not decided to retire. John Hewson described Fred Chaney as "the little ---- from the west."

Later life

Chaney was appointed to the National Native Title Tribunal in 1994, initially on a part-time basis. He became a full-time member in 1995 and deputy president in 2000, retiring in 2007. He was also chancellor of Murdoch University from 1995 to 2002, and co-chair of Reconciliation Australia from 2000 to 2005. Chaney left the Liberal Party in 1995, believing that his work "required engagements across party lines and without political involvement".

On 15 January 2020, it was announced that Chaney would be one of the members of the National Co-design Group of the Indigenous voice to government.


Chaney was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1997 "for service to the Parliament of Australia and to the Aboriginal community through his contribution to the establishment of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia and mediating with the National Native Title Tribunal".

Chaney was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from Murdoch University in 2003 "for services towards Aboriginal reconciliation and as Chancellor", and in 2017 the Australian National University awarded him the same honour, "for his exceptional contribution to public service through parliament and his lifelong commitment to Indigenous issues".

On 25 January 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Chaney as the 2014 Senior Australian of the Year.

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