NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has admitted to wearing a Nazi costume to his 21st birthday, saying it was a "terrible mistake" he made when he was young.
In a surprise apology on Thursday while speaking to reporters, Mr Perrottet said he is "deeply ashamed" by the costume choice he made 20 years ago, addressing rumours that had been circulating.
The issue was reportedly raised with the 40-year-old two days ago when he received a call from a colleague. The revelation prompted him to come forward with the admission accompanied by an apology.
"When it was raised with me - this difficult truth of a grave and terrible mistake that I made at my 21st birthday party - to be told by someone else, I felt it was very important that it came from me," he told reporters this afternoon.
"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. "
Perrottet admits the costume was 'wrong and insensitive'
Mr Perrottet, a father of seven, stressed he is "not the person I was when I was 21." He did not "understand the gravity and the hurt of what that uniform means to people," the 40-year-old said
"It's been something that I've had to carry with me for my life," he said of the "wrong and insensitive" decision, admitting it was a "terrible mistake".
The incident occurred in 2003, two years before Prince Harry was infamously photographed in a Nazi outfit that included a swastika armband. Mr Perrottet, who's been premier since October 2021, said he was "not aware" of any photo depicting him in the uniform — that's not why he's come forward. When asked why it took him 20 years to speak about the costume, he said he'd thought about it but "never did".
"I thought this was important that this is my truth, that I should be the one to explain that to the people of our state, not someone else," he said.
Jewish community responds to 'offensive' incident
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies said the premier had personally conveyed his "deep and sincere regret about his poor choice of costume as a young man". They spoke shortly before Thursday's press conference.
"This incident, no matter how old, is a reminder of the need to continually educate all Australians - and particularly our youth - about the abhorrent nature of the Nazi regime and the evil perpetrated in service of the Nazi ideology," president David Ossip and chief executive Darren Bark said in a joint statement.
They said the premier had been a staunch supporter and friend of the NSW Jewish community, particularly when as treasurer he secured funding for the Sydney Jewish Museum.
"Nazi symbolism is not to be taken lightly and dressing as a Nazi is not a joke," Mr Ossip and Mr Banks said. "The premier has acknowledged this, recognising that wearing the costume was offensive and will distress many in our community. We hope that this unfortunate incident will serve as a lesson to all."
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