Perkins, who won back-to-back 1,500 metres freestyle gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, replaces John Bertrand as Swimming Australia (SA) president after the former America’s Cup sailor stepped down last month after seven years in charge.
“I have a strong desire to maintain swimming’s position as Australia’s most successful Olympic sport and with only a year out from Tokyo it’s important to keep a level of stability and focus,” Perkins, 47, said in a statement.
“We need to keep building momentum and heading into an Olympic year there is no better opportunity to bring the sport and the country together and inspire future generations.”
Perkins earned the nickname “Super Fish” in Australia while setting a slew of world records in the 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyle in the 1990s.
He fell just short of his bid for a hat-trick of Olympic 1,500 titles when he finished runner-up behind countryman Grant Hackett at the Sydney 2000 Games.
He will take over a top-quality programme laden with world champions such as Mack Horton and Ariarne Titmus and hope to restore Australia’s standing as superpower in the Olympic pool.
Australia won three swimming golds at the 2016 Rio Olympics, two more than at London in 2012, but the Brazil haul failed to match higher expectations of the team.
Perkins’s appointment continues a year of change at SA, which saw head coach Jacco Verhaeren depart in September and his deputy Rohan Taylor take up the role.
SA Chief Executive Leigh Russell has also confirmed she will step down at the end of the month. Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by William Mallard