Paddy's Road leads back to Ireland
Written by Administrator
Monday, 02 May 2016 00:00
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By Lloyd Gorman

Patrick Dodson was officially elected as Western Australia's newest Senator on April 28. He replaces Senator Joe Bullock who resigned because his personal views about same sex marriage were at odds with the Labor Party's position on the issue. Mr Dodson has been reported as being in favour of same sex marriage on the grounds that not to allow it is discrimination. His election in the WA Parliament this week was hijacked by the remarks of Liberal senator Peter Abetz, the member for Southern River, who holds devout Catholic beliefs, on the issue which has become the main story about his election as Senator with the full sport of all sides of the House. Wearing his trademark Akubra Patrick (Pat) Dodson was sworn into his role in the national parliament in Canberra on Monday (May 2).

But what might be of more interest to many in the Irish community is that this distinctive looking and distinguished Aboriginal leader and elder who has been called 'The Father of Reconciliation' has an Irish heritage and background..

“Patrick Lionel Djargun Dodson is a Yawuru man from Broome,” Premier Colin Barnett told Parliament. “His father, Snowy, was an Irish Australian and his mother, Patricia, a Yawuru woman. When he was aged two, his family moved to Katherine in the Northern Territory. When he was 13, he lost both parents within three months of each other. He and his six brothers and sisters were orphaned.”

Dodson was just 12 years old when his parents died in 1960. After finishing school – he won a scholarship to Monivae College in Hamilton in far western Victoria – he enrolled to study for the priest hood and was ordained in the order of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. He was Australia's first Aboriginal Catholic Priest. He left the Church in 1981 to work in Aboriginal and Indigenous community issues.

His life’s work was recognised as a national living treasure, and

in 2008 he received the Sydney Peace Prize. Mia Davies, Deputy Leader of the National Party, and member for Central Wheatbelt, said that in winning this prize he joined: “Laureates such as Desmond Tutu and Ireland's Mary Robinson”. In 2009, he was named Western Australian Senior Australian of the Year.

By happenstance, the date of his election as Senator has a special significance for another Irish connection. It is the feast day of Saint Cronan (died 637 AD). In 2008 Dodson visited St. Cronan's Boy's National School, in Vevay Crescent in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

A conference called 'Exploring Identities' was held at the school and was an event which challenged the students and others to think about racial, religious and cultural stereotypes – including in Northern Ireland. The school choir performed for the special visitor.

According to an Irish Times article about the visit, published on Saturday December 30, Dodson reminded everyone at the conference who was facing poverty, discrimination, hatred or oppression to believe in hope and humanity.

"The role of youth is to push and push hard for the dream and the ideal of a reconciled community,” he said. “Where the diversity and the difference that distinguish us is totally appreciated. Keep in your mind to treat them as you'd like to be treated. That sounds very Christian, but in honouring and respecting their uniqueness and enabling it to flourish through accommodations and compromises, your uniqueness can prosper too. The world is a pretty small place after all."

In 2003 Kevin Keeffe wrote Paddy's Road: Life stories of Patrick Dodson. Irish Scene will approach Dodson to request an interview for an interview in an upcoming edition of the magazine.

Last Updated ( Monday, 02 May 2016 14:13 )