Tuesday, 28 November 2023
Statements on Indulgence
Dodson, Senator Patrick
At today's caucus meeting, Senator Patrick Dodson returned. Senator Patrick Dodson has undergone a long period of treatment for cancer in Perth from his Broome home. He informed me some time ago that he wanted to come back to parliament to pay his respects for his election, and it says a lot about his integrity that he has made the effort to make the trip to Canberra even though his health issues are ongoing.
Senator Dodson told me a while ago of his plan to retire from the Senate, and that fills me with sadness but also with a sense of gratitude. Patrick Dodson is a great Yawuru man, a wonderful Australian and such a great human being. You'd gladly follow him into battle, and I have. Yet he has made his life's work to make peace. From the moment he entered parliament, he has made this place a better one. As a boy, he hid in the long grass while the police and welfare officers took his mates. Yet, despite what must have been such an incredibly traumatic experience as a child—one that is almost incomprehensible—he grew into the father of reconciliation, a figure of grace, dignity and inspiration. He has spent his life championing justice and advancing reconciliation—a commissioner into Aboriginal deaths in custody, the first chair of Reconciliation Australia, a director of the Central Land Council and the Kimberley Land Council. He has shone a spotlight on the gaping chasm in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. He put forward solutions grounded in policy reform. He also, as always, sought to call attention to the deep connection that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share with the land and waters and the incredible contribution they've made to national life.
Someone with Patrick's record of service would have been more than entitled to spend his late 60s and early 70s on one of those beautiful beaches in Broome. It's a measure of the man and a reflection of his commitment to our nation and to what he calls 'unfinished business' that he chose to serve Australia in the Senate. It has been my great fortune to be able to count Senator Dodson as a colleague and my enduring happiness to be able to count on him as a friend. I've benefitted time and time again from his wise counsel, and he has taught me so much over the years.
Patrick is a generous man. Through his seven years, he has gifted every member of our caucus and people across the parliament his wisdom, his courage, his fearless conviction and his eternal good humour. Through the powerful example of his own life, he has given so many of us the gift of a greater sense of perspective. There are few more reassuring sights in this building than that of Patrick and his hat coming down a corridor towards you. When you're in Pat's presence, you often laugh, you always learn, and you feel yourself stand taller.
On behalf of the Labor family that he gained when he became a senator for Western Australia, I give credit to Bill Shorten for the decision that he made to bring Patrick into the Senate and into the Labor fold. I wish Pat all the very best as he quite rightly focuses on his own health. He will leave parliament in January. He leaves parliament with our thanks, with our love and most importantly, I think, with our total respect.
on indulgence—I join with the Prime Minister in his heartfelt words of respect, prayer and thought for Senator Pat Dodson, who is obviously going through a very difficult health battle at the moment. We send our love to his family and to those who are closest to him. We pay respect to the contribution that he's made to the Senate and the contribution that he's made over many decades, as the Prime Minister rightly points out, to many Australians, particularly those of Indigenous heritage. He's a person who is genuine and absolute in his desire to see a better outcome for Indigenous Australians, and in many ways, wearing many hats, he's been able to deliver that. He should be rightly proud of the contribution that he's made to our nation. He's provided an inspiration to generations of young Indigenous people and provided support to their own advancement through their careers. It is a difficult battle—there's no question about that—and I hope that he hears our words of support for him in the pain that he is suffering at the moment and that his family and those who love him most are experiencing as well. We thank him for his service in the Senate and wish him all the very best for the future.