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John Curtin Day
John Curtin Medallists

Patrick Lionel Dodson (2009)

There is one word that has become synonymous with Professor Patrick Dodson and that is "reconciliation".

In fact, he is warmly regarded across the nation as the "father of Australian reconciliation".

Patrick Lionel Dodson was born in 1948 in Broome, Western Australia, and is one of this country's most respected and influential Aboriginal leaders.

His vision of Australia is one that is reconciled with and inclusive of all its members, particularly the nation's Indigenous peoples.

Over the decades, he has devoted his energies to this issue taking on many roles and participating in a range of high-level forums - such as the Council for Australian Reconciliation, the Apology to Indigenous Australia's Stolen Generations, the 2008 Australian 2020 Summit and The Australian Dialogue.

A major figure in Indigenous affairs, Patrick has consistently shown remarkable leadership, courage and vision with much of this evident from childhood.

He spent most of his early life in the Northern Territory, but this changed after he lost both parents in tragic circumstances. In 1961 he was sent to Monivae College, a boarding school, in Victoria — a long way from his family in Katherine and Broome.

Patrick rose to prominence at his secondary school taking on important leadership roles such as head prefect and for two successive years he was selected as captain of the school football team.

It was also during this time that he developed a political awareness of Aboriginal issues.

After completing his schooling, Patrick enrolled to study for the priesthood and was ordained in the order of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in May 1975.

In doing so, he became Australia's first Aboriginal Catholic Priest.

Following his departure from the church in 1981, Patrick turned his attention to Indigenous matters and reconciliation.

This unswerving commitment has seen him lead a variety of organisations starting with the Central Land Council which he joined in 1981 and became Director in 1985.

Other high-profile leadership roles have followed such as his appointment in 1989 as one of the Commissioners of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

In 1991 he became the inaugural Chairperson of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

In 2001, Patrick established the Lingiari Foundation and in 2003 he was appointed to Chair the Board of the Kimberley Development Commission.

During the same year, a biography "Paddy's Road" by Kevin Keeffe was published describing Patrick's life and political, cultural and spiritual beliefs.

In 2008 he commenced as Co-Convener of The Australian Dialogue, along with Lt General John Sanderson, and this year he became Director of the Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Research Unit at the University of New South Wales.

Patrick's inspiring dedication to reconciliation has been acknowledged with various accolades and awards.

He is recognised as a National Living Treasure, received the 2008 Sydney Peace Prize — the only international peace prize awarded in Australia — and was recently named the 2009 WA Senior Australian of the Year.

His lifetime of service to the Australian community has been tireless and his achievements countless, that is why Patrick Dodson is, indeed, a most worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal for 2009.

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