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HARRIS, Rene R (1947-2008)

HARRIS, Rene R (1947-2008)

Rene Harris addressing the United Nations.

Rene Harris addressing the United Nations.

'President of Nauru for four brief terms, Rene Harris was a controversial and determined leader of this small island nation of 13,000 people. Under his leadership Nauru became a member of the United Nations and more controversially, became Australia’s partner in negotiating the ‘Pacific Solution’ to house asylum seeking refugees on Nauru.

Born at Aiwo, he became, in 1992, Chairman of the Nauru Phosphate Commission (NPC) and Manager of the Nauru Pacific Line. In 1977 he was elected to Nauru’s parliament and was a member for 31 years before finally losing his seat in April 2008 not long before his death on 5 July of heart disease. He had for some 5 years suffered from diabetes and received regular dialysis treatment in Melbourne. His colourful career included a conviction for assault and jail-break for freeing three of his relatives from the Nauru Police Lock-Up and allegations by the ABC of extravagance as Charirman of NPC.

He attended Geelong College as a boarder from 1964 to 1966 after attending the Nauru Government Secondary School. At College, Rene was a School Prefect and Morrison House Prefect. He was also a member of: the PFA Committee from 1965 to 1966, the 1st Tennis Teams from 1964 to 1965 and Team vice-captain in 1966, the 1966 Athletics Team, and 1st Football Teams of 1965 and 1966. He distinguished himself as the School Shot Put Champion in 1966. His outstanding activities at the College were recognised at the 1966 Speech Day Assembly by the Principal, Peter Thwaites, who announced that for the first time this year he had
'taken the unusual step of promoting at our last Assembly this morning, two boys who have given exceptionally good service to the school community this year, to be School Prefects 'Honoris Causa'. They are Rene Harris from Nauru and Geoffrey Shanks.'

Sources: Ad Astra December 2001 p 17; Pegasus June 1967 p50. OGC 1964''
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