'Deeply ashamed': Perrottet wore Nazi costume to his 21st birthday
Premier Dominic Perrottet has revealed he wore a Nazi costume to his 21st birthday, delivering an emotional apology for what he described as a grave and terrible mistake.
In an extraordinary press conference, the 40-year-old told the media about the costume he rented and wore almost two decades ago after it was raised with him by one of his cabinet ministers.
“When I was 21 at my 21st fancy dress party I wore a Nazi uniform. I’m deeply ashamed of what I did, and I’m truly sorry for the hurt and the pain that this will cause people right across our state and particularly the Jewish community and Holocaust survivors,” he said.
“At that age in my life, I just did not understand the gravity of what uniform meant ... it was just a naive thing to do – that was a terrible mistake from a 21-year-old who just had no depth or appreciation.”
The premier said he was disclosing the truth because he was contacted by a cabinet colleague two days ago about the party, which had a uniform theme. The Nazi uniform he wore was black and rented from a costume shop.
He said no one else at the party wore a Nazi uniform and that his parents, who were at the event, spoke to him about it the next day, telling him it was wrong and insensitive.
“There have been a number of times that I have thought ... and wanted to actually say this,” he said.
“I knew that that is the point, that I needed to tell this truth about what I wore at my 21st ... that I needed to say sorry for the hurt and the pain this is going to cause people right across our state.”
The premier’s admission, two and half months from the looming state election, follows rumours of a photograph circling that showed him wearing the uniform.
Perrottet said he was unaware if there were photos of him wearing the uniform, but insisted the colleague who contacted him was not threatening to release information about the incident to the public.
“What’s prompted this was receiving information ... two days ago,” he said. “This truth about this terrible mistake that I made ... [it] needed to be told by me, not by someone else.
“I don’t know of [a photo]. I don’t know if one exists. I’ve not seen one.”
Perrottet said he had contacted prominent Jewish leaders, including NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Darren Bark and former chief executive Vic Alhadeff, before he addressed the media.
“I’m deeply ashamed of what I did, and I’m truly sorry for the hurt and the pain this will cause for people right across our state, and in particular, members of the Jewish community, Holocaust survivors, veterans and their families,” he said.
In a joint statement on Thursday, Bark and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President David Ossip said they appreciated the premier personally contacting them to express his “sincere regret about his poor choice of costume as a young man”.
“The premier has been a staunch supporter and friend of the Jewish community throughout his time in public life, in particular as treasurer he ensured the Sydney Jewish Museum received funding to ensure that it could continue educating the community about the Holocaust and the horrors of the Nazi era,” the statement said.
“Nazi symbolism is not to be taken lightly and dressing as a Nazi is not a joke ...the premier has acknowledged this, recognising that wearing the costume was offensive and will distress many in our community.”
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean, who stood alongside Perrottet as he made his statement, said the premier still retained his full support ahead of the election.
“The premier has just admitted that he made a terrible mistake a long time ago. He’s apologised to community leaders. He’s apologised to the Jewish community. He’s apologised to the people of NSW,” he said.
“The NSW government truly values its relationship with the Jewish community. And this is a reminder about the atrocities that occurred. And the need for us all to recommit ourselves to ensuring that that ever happens.”
More to come
Our Breaking News Alert will notify you of significant breaking news when it happens. Get it here.