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Patrick Dodson - Aboriginal leader
On the press release of the book: Paddy's Road, Life Stories of Patrick Dodson
by Kevin Keeffe, we would like to acknowledge an important strong public figure.
Born in 1948, Patrick Dodson became Australia's first ordained Aboriginal Catholic priest.
In this challenging role he sought to balance and blend Catholicism and Aboriginal spiritual belief.
This led him into conflict with the ecclesiastical hierarchy and, after many years of confrontation, he finally left the priesthood.
Finding ways to bridge Aboriginal and European-Australian cultures also motivated Dodson's subsequent involvement in a range of significant activities, including indigenous land rights, the Reconciliation movement and his work as a commissioner on the Inquiry into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
While Dodson's trademark Akubra hat and flowing beard have been familiar on the national stage for many years, he has never lost his Kimberley roots from Northern Western Australia. His activism has been conditioned by the experience of colonisation in Western Australia and many of the people, incidents and issues that appear throughout Paddy's Road are West Australian in origin, focus or interest.
Dodson resigned from his founding chairmanship of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in 1977, partly in disillusionment and partly to reconnect with his traditional country around Broome. He continues to be active and as busy as he was in the full glare of public life.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the current hiatus in Aboriginal affairs, Dodson remains optimistic, saying: "I would hope that in the next three to six years we'll see some significant addressing of the fundamental issues that have been brought to our knowledge through the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, through the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation itself, through the reports from
the Human Rights Commission, through the highlighting of the way in which Australians want to be better regarded rather than simply as people who are ignorant."
Having just re-read one of his old schoolbooks that depicted Aboriginal Australia in totally inadequate terms, Kevin Keeffe concludes: "Two countries in one continent, with one unknowable future. Reconciliation is a long road for all of us."
Perhaps the wisest and most poetic words are spoken by Dodson's respected and influential grandfather, Paddy Djiagween. In one of the many troubled moments of Pat Dodson's life, his grandfather said to him: "The sun rises, wind blows, grass grows, the tide comes and goes. No one can ever take your land."
When Paddy Djiagween died, at the presumed age of 111, Patrick Dodson and his family had those words carved on his tombstone.
Paddy's Road: Life Stories of Patrick Dodson, by Kevin Keeffe
(Aboriginal Studies Press)
AAP © 2003 West Australian Newspapers Limited All Rights Reserved.
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