Senator Patrick Dodson’s plan to retire from the Senate fills me with sadness – but also with gratitude.
Patrick Dodson is a great Yawuru man, a wonderful Australian, and an excellent human being.
You would gladly follow him into battle yet he's made it his life's work to make peace. From the moment he entered Parliament, he has made this place a better one.
As a boy, he hid in the long grass while the police and welfare officers took his mates.
Yet despite what must have been such a traumatic experience as a child, he grew into the Father of Reconciliation - a figure of grace, dignity and inspiration.
Patrick has spent his life championing justice and advancing reconciliation.
A Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the first Chair of Reconciliation Australia, and a Director of the Central Land Council and the Kimberly Land Council, he shone a spotlight on the gaping chasm in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and put forward solutions grounded in policy reform.
He also always sought to call attention to the deep connection Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples share with the land and waters and the incredible contribution they have made to our national life.
Someone with Patrick’s record of service would have been more than entitled to spend his late 60s and early 70s on a beach in Broome. It’s a measure of the man and a reflection of his commitment to ‘unfinished business’ that he chose to serve Australia in the Senate.
It has been my great fortune to be able to count Senator Dodson as a colleague, and my enduring happiness to be able to count him as a friend.
I have benefited time and time again from his wise counsel, and he has taught me so much over the years.
Patrick is such a generous man. Through 7 years he has gifted every member of our Caucus his wisdom, his courage, his fearless conviction and his eternal good humour.
Through the powerful example of his own life, he has given so many of us the gift of a greater sense of perspective.
There are few more reassuring sights in Parliament House than seeing Patrick and his hat coming down a corridor towards you.
When you're in Pat's presence you often laugh, you always learn and you feel yourself stand taller.
On behalf of the Labor family he gained when he became a Senator for Western Australia, I wish Pat nothing but the very best as he focuses on his own health.
He leaves Parliament with our thanks, and with our love.