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Speech: Patrick Dodson appointed to the Senate

For more information, contact Mia Davies (Leader | Member for Central Wheatbelt).

MS M.J. DAVIES (Central Wheatbelt — Deputy Leader of the National Party) [11.15 am]: Mr President, thank you very much. On behalf of my National Party colleagues, I have much pleasure in supporting this motion. The Nationals believe Patrick Dodson transcends partisan politics and, in our view, will bring to the Australian Parliament a unique perspective forged from a remarkable life’s journey. Author Kev Keefe reminds us in his 2003 book Paddy’s Road, that Patrick Dodson was Australia’s first Aboriginal Catholic priest, a royal commissioner and the acknowledged father of reconciliation. More recently, Tony Wright, the national affairs editor of The Age newspaper provided us with the portrait of a tenacious leader born in Broome to an Irish–Australian father, Snowy Dodson, and an Indigenous mother, Patricia.

Wright wrote of the Dodson family’s move from WA to Katherine in the Northern Territory and how Patrick at the age of 13, along with his brothers and sisters—seven of them altogether—were orphaned and became wards. We were reminded of how missionaries of the Sacred Heart stepped in to help the orphaned Pat and younger brother Mick to obtain scholarships to Hamilton in far west Victoria to board at Monivae College. Wright tells us how Patrick won the Diligence Prize in five out of the six years he was at Monivae; how he became a middle-school prefect and then captain of the school, captain of the all-but-unbeatable first eighteen and the adjutant of the cadet corps. Patrick Dodson has carried his zest for high achievement through life. This was underscored in 2008 when he won the Sydney Peace Prize, joining laureates such as Desmond Tutu and Ireland’s Mary Robinson. He is a significant and astute Western Australian who we are sure will represent this state with distinction in the halls of Canberra.

Most of us here today will recall Patrick Dodson’s extraordinary persistence and leadership that led to the signing of a $196 million deal between the state government and Broome’s Yawuru people in August 2010—then the biggest value native title agreement in Australian history. This agreement resolved native title deadlocks and dramatically increased land supply in Broome with almost 1 900 hectares freed for residential, tourism, industrial and future airport development. It gave the Yawuru people a platform for economic independence.

My Nationals colleagues have had many dealings with Patrick over the years both as a Yawuru leader, former chair of the Kimberley Regional Development Commission and director of the Kimberley Land Council. He is forthright in his approach and, in our experience, his word has always been his bond.

The Nationals support the motion, which will allow Patrick Dodson’s transition to the Senate because of his unique understanding of the special needs of people who choose to live, work and invest in regional Western Australia. We believe also that he will use the Senate opportunity to continue his advocacy for Western Australia’s Indigenous people, especially when it involves economic advancement.

We wish Patrick well.