Australia owes Patrick Dodson a debt of gratitude

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Senator Patrick Dodson’s decades of hard work and intellectual rigour committed to the reconciliation movement and the struggle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights.

A Yawuru man from Broome, Patrick Dodson’s informal title – the Father of Reconciliation – is well deserved after his successful leadership of the movement over many decades. In this role he demonstrated great passion and determination.

In many ways Senator Dodson’s life mirrors the advances the First Nations rights movement has championed over the decades.

His early days were marked by poverty, disempowerment, and racism; like so many other Aboriginal kids he spent time hiding from police and welfare officials trying to steal him away from his family.

From these hard times he ascended to great heights in Australian public life, but always in roles which advanced the rights and interests of his people.

He first came into the national spotlight as a Commissioner with the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which recommended the urgent need for a formal process of reconciliation between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

He went on to become the inaugural Chairperson of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR), the predecessor to Reconciliation Australia, which was established in response to that recommendation. His wisdom and patience in that role is fondly remembered by all who worked with him.

More recently, as a Senator for Western Australia, he was appointed the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in the Albanese Government.

Patrick Dodson has been a giant in Australia public life for decades, truly deserving of the title, Father of Reconciliation. His contribution to reconciliation and the struggle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights is legendary.

Reconciliation Australia’s Board and staff wish Senator Dodson all the very best of luck as he leaves the Parliament and thank him for his outstanding contribution.

We suspect Australia will continue to benefit from his counsel as he heads into retirement.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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