Pat Dodson

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Patrick Dodson
Dodson in New York City in 2022
Senator for Western Australia
In office
2 May 2016 – 26 January 2024
Preceded byJoe Bullock
Succeeded byVarun Ghosh
Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart
In office
1 June 2022 – 26 January 2024
Preceded by(position established)
Succeeded by(position terminated)
Personal details
Patrick Lionel Djargun Dodson

(1948-01-29) 29 January 1948 (age 76)
Broome, Western Australia, Australia
Political partyLabor
RelationsMick Dodson (brother)
Alma materCorpus Christi College, Melbourne

Patrick Lionel Djargun Dodson (born 29 January 1948) is an Australian indigenous rights activist and former politician. He was a Senator for Western Australia from 2016 to 2024, representing the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Dodson is a Yawuru elder from Broome, Western Australia.[1][2] He has been chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and a Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. In addition to a brief stint as a Roman Catholic priest, he was the winner of the 2008 Sydney Peace Prize and the 2009 John Curtin Medal.[3] He is the brother of Mick Dodson.

On 2 March 2016, Dodson was announced as the replacement for Joe Bullock as a Labor senator for Western Australia, following Bullock's resignation.[4] The Parliament of Western Australia appointed Dodson to the Senate on 2 May 2016.[5] On 28 November 2023, Dodson announced his retirement from the Senate, which took effect on 26 January 2024.[6][7] He was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time of his resignation.[7]

Early life[edit]

Dodson was born on 29 January 1948 in Broome.[8] His father, John "Snowy" Dodson, was born in Launceston, Tasmania and his mother, Patricia, was an Indigenous Australian.[9] The family moved to Katherine in the Northern Territory when Pat was two, to escape Western Australian laws banning race-mix families.[2]

The Dodson children were orphaned at the deaths of both parents only three months apart in 1960.[2] He and his brother Mick were made wards of the state, but their aunt and uncle decided they should accept a scholarship to study at Monivae College in Hamilton, Victoria, where Dodson became head prefect and captain of football.[3]

Catholic priesthood[edit]

After leaving school, Dodson enrolled studied the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Melbourne and was ordained in the order of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in May 1975. He was the first Aboriginal person to become a Catholic priest in Australia.[10] He left the priesthood in the early 1980s[11] due to conflicts between Catholicism and his Aboriginal spiritual beliefs.[8][12]

Public service[edit]

Dodson lives in Broome. He has been involved in matters relating to Indigenous rights and culture. Roles he has held include:[13]

  • Director of the Central Land Council in 1985[14] and the Kimberley Land Council in 1991[15]
  • Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 1989
  • Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (1991–1997) (This body was replaced by Reconciliation Australia). He retired stating "I fear for the spirit of this country".
  • Adjunct Professor at the University of Notre Dame Australia.
  • Chairperson, Kimberley Development Commission (his term expired in November 2010)[16]
  • Chairman of the Lingiari Foundation, an Indigenous non-government advocacy and research Foundation.
  • Inaugural Director of the Indigenous Policy, Dialogue and Research Unit (IPDRU) at the University of New South Wales
  • Chairman of the Yawuru Native Title Holders Body Corporate (2010–2013)[17] and Nyamba Buru Yawuru Ltd (to 2015)[18]


Dodson with Attorney-General George Brandis in 2015

The Parliament of Western Australia appointed Dodson to fill a casual vacancy in the Australian Senate on 2 May 2016, following the resignation of Labor senator Joe Bullock. He was sworn in as a senator on the same day, and sat as a Labor senator for Western Australia. He retained his seat at the 2016 federal election.[19] He has served on a number of Senate committees, notably as joint chair of the Joint Select Committee into Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.[20]

Dodson was added to the shadow ministry in May 2016, as a shadow assistant minister. He was initially appointed shadow parliamentary secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, and in July 2016 has been shadow assistant minister for indigenous affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten promised to appoint Dodson as Minister for Indigenous Affairs if the ALP won the 2019 federal election. This did not eventuate, and Dodson, while re-elected to the Senate, did not stand for re-election to the Labor frontbench.[21]

As the shadow assistant minister for reconciliation and constitutional recognition, Dodson supported the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.[22]

Dodson served on the "Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia", which delivered its interim report in December 2020.[23]

Following Labor's victory at the 2022 federal election, Dodson was appointed Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.[24]


On 28 November 2023 Dodson announced his intention to resign as a Senator effective 26 January 2024, saying he is unable to serve further due to being treated for cancer earlier in the year.[6][25]

Personal life[edit]

Dodson's daughter Grace, whose mother is Annunciata Dartinga, is an artist based in Peppimenarti, Northern Territory.[26]

In early 2023, Dodson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, followed by an infection of the oesophagus and shingles. He was treated with chemotherapy and returned from medical leave in order to campaign for the "Yes" vote at the 2023 Australian Indigenous Voice referendum.[27]


Dodson holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Melbourne[28] and an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of New South Wales.[29]

In 2012 he gave the inaugural Gandhi Oration at the University of New South Wales.[30]


  1. ^ "Binge drinking and alcoholism are problems across Australia, but more visible in outback towns". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 December 2021. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Tony Wright (5 March 2016). "Aboriginal elder Pat Dodson: portrait of the senator as a young man". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Patrick Lionel Dodson (2009)". Curtin University. 22 January 2009.
  4. ^ "Pat Dodson to replace retiring WA Labor Senator Joe Bullock". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Pat Dodson elected WA's newest senator". ABC News. 28 April 2016.
  6. ^ a b Clun, Rachel (28 November 2023). "'Father of reconciliation' Pat Dodson to quit politics". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 28 November 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  7. ^ a b Dan Jervis-Bardy (26 January 2024). "Federal politics: Senator Pat Dodson hailed as a 'giant' after slipping into retirement". The West Australian.
  8. ^ a b "National Finalist Senior Australian of the Year 2009: Patrick Dodson". National Australia Day Council. 2009. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  9. ^ Wright, Tony (11 November 2017). "How the citizenship farce ensnared the 'father of reconciliation', Patrick Dodson". The Age. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  10. ^ "Patrick Dodson". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  11. ^ Rolls, Mitchell; Johnson, Murray (2011). Historical Dictionary of Australian Aborigines. p. 64. ISBN 9780810859975.
  12. ^ "Patrick Dodson - Aboriginal leader". Wandoo Didgeridoo. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Mr Patrick Dodson". Australian National University. Archived from the original on 6 May 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  14. ^ "Central Land Council - Our History, Our Land".
  15. ^ "Kimberley Land Council Newsletter, September 2018" (PDF).
  16. ^ Kimberley Development Commission - KDC Board Archived 1 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Yawuru PBC Elects New Chair | YawuruYawuru". Archived from the original on 16 December 2013.
  18. ^ "Change to NBY Directors - YawuruYawuru". Archived from the original on 16 March 2016.
  19. ^ "Senate: First preferences by candidate - AEC Tally Room". Archived from the original on 27 August 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  20. ^ "Senator Patrick Dodson". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  21. ^ "No frontbench seat for Labor MP Pat Dodson". The Australian. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  22. ^ Grattan, Michelle (12 July 2019). "Scott Morrison has already achieved one political miracle. Can he achieve two?". ABC News. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  23. ^ Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia (December 2020). Never again: Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia - Interim Report. Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN 978-1-76092-197-2. PDF
  24. ^ Albanese, Anthony. "Statement on new Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery". Prime Minister of Australia. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  25. ^ Dodson, Patrick [@SenatorDodson] (27 November 2023). "This morning I announced my resignation as Senator for Western Australia, effective from 26 January 2024. Regrettably, my recent treatment for cancer means that my health, although slowly improving, has left me physically unable to continue as a Senator. It has been an honour" (Tweet). Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Archived from the original on 28 November 2023. Retrieved 28 November 2023 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ "Durrmu Artists". Durrmu Arts Aboriginal Corporation. Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  27. ^ Wright, Tony (6 October 2023). "Pat Dodson, on the comeback from cancer, gives his voice to The Voice". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  28. ^ "Senator Patrick Dodson delivers Dungala Kaiela oration in Shepparton" (Press release). University of Melbourne. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  29. ^ "Deadly Streaming Patrick Dodson" (PDF). University of Newcastle. 2018. p. 52. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  30. ^ Jopson, Debra; Coorey, Phillip (31 January 2012). "Practise what we preach: father of reconciliation attacks two-faced Australia". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 September 2019.

Other sources[edit]

  • Kevin Keeffe, (2003) Paddy's Road: Life Stories of Patrick Dodson" Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra ISBN 0-85575-448-6

External links[edit]