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Olympic hero and father of Attorney-General Christian Porter dies after battle with cancer aged 84

Former Australian Olympian and Liberal party stalwart Chilla Porter has died aged 84.

Porter lost his long battle with cancer in Perth on Saturday, with his son Attorney-General Christian Porter confirming his death in a Facebook post the following day. 

Chilla competed in two Olympic Games for Australia and won a silver medal after his incredible high jump performance against Charles Dumas in the Melbourne games in 1956.

The pair went back and forth for more than six hours in the epic showdown, which made Chilla a household name in Australia overnight. 

‘For the hundreds of thousands of Australians who were transfixed by the first day of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics my father was Chilla Porter, the wiry 6 foot four teenager who took part in the longest field event in the Olympics,’ Mr Porter’s post reads.

‘Dad was an unknown 19-year-old Brisbane boy who for almost 7 hours went jump for jump with the world-record holding American Charles Dumas who had only months earlier become the first man to break the seven-foot barrier and who was the best field athlete in the world.

‘Under unimaginable pressure Chilla smashed his own personal best by almost two inches and in the end just clipped the bar in his final attempt at the winning height to see Dumas clinch gold.

‘It must truly have been something special because people of all walks of life from that time will stop me in the street 64 years later to say that they were there and still remember every jump.’

Chilla was a seven-time Australian athletics champion and was inducted into the Australian Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011.

Mr Porter’s tribute post said his father had been rocked by his illness in the weeks before his death, leaving him frail and fragile from the deadly disease.

‘In the end one of the physically strongest men Australia has produced had his cancer go to his bones and like so many Australian families who fight the cruel things cancer does he went through far too much over the final few weeks,’ Mr Porter’s post continues.

‘My sister’s long care for Dad which let him die in his own home on the weekend has been the greatest act of kindness I have ever seen. 

‘Neither my sister or I knew that tenacious 19-year-old who did those amazing athletic feats and went on to be 7 times national champion and inducted into the Australian athletics hall of fame and we barely recognised what cancer did in the end.’ 

Following his athletics career, Chilla was a Queensland Liberal state MP between 1966 and 1980 before becoming the director of the Western Australian Liberal Party’s state division.

Chilla served in Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s ministry and dedicated his working life to Athletics in WA and the Liberal Party, with Mr Porter set to carry his political legacy forward after his death.

Mr Porter said Chilla will be remembered as a man who was devoted to his family and his craft and lived an incredible life.

‘Shani (Mr Porter’s sister) and I had our entire life blessed by the most devoted of fathers and Mum got married at 19 to the most devoted of husbands and so we will always remember that wonderful loving father and husband and grandfather who lived such a fantastic life,’ Mr Porter’s post reads.

Chilla is survived by his wife Nerida, children Shani and Christian and grandchildren Lachlan, Florence and Nathan.

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