The ‘father of reconciliation’, Senator Patrick Dodson, has announced he is retiring on 26 January next year due to ill health. Senator Dodson referred to ‘the ongoing problem of challenges of colonisation and settlement and its impact on First Peoples’.  

Fittingly, Senator Dodson’s final formal act in the Senate was to table the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs into the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in Australia. Senator Dodson was Chair of the Committee and had also held the position of Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The JSC report made six recommendations, including that ‘the Commonwealth Government establish an independent process of truth-telling and agreement making’. 

This week also, the Australian National University released a report on the Voice referendum. The ANU surveyed over 4000 adult Australians and found 80.5 per cent of those surveyed – regardless of whether they voted Yes or No on 14 October – thought that Australia should ‘undertake formal Truth-telling processes to acknowledge the reality of Australia’s shared history’.

The Defending Country campaign wants the Australian War Memorial to lead the way on Truth-telling. The Memorial has consistently failed to fully confront the history of the frontier conflict and is even now prevaricating. It now has the chance to make amends. 

Defending Country will offer the Memorial a five-point Action Plan to start this process; we will post the plan soon on this website. Frontier Wars Truth-telling at the Memorial is an idea whose time has come. The Memorial must include an honest, evidence-based, non-sanitised presentation and commemoration of the Frontier Wars, and that must occupy an amount of floor space commensurate with the importance of the Frontier Wars in Australian history. 

The Memorial’s plans at present have the Frontier Wars occupying just 1.1 per cent of total gallery space after the current redevelopment program – and even that space is to be shared with the contingents to the New Zealand wars 1845-72 and to the Sudan 1885. That is an insult and nowhere near good enough.

Patrick Dodson has been a fighter for his Yawuru people, for reconciliation, for the Voice, for all Australians. The Australian War Memorial can make a great contribution to his legacy by properly recognising and commemorating the Australian Frontier Wars.

Patrick Dodson is a West Australian. Memorial Council Chair Kim Beazley is a West Australian. Veterans’ Affairs Minister Matt Keogh is a West Australian. It’s time for West Australians – and all of us – to confront our history.

We wish Patrick Dodson well.

The Aboriginal people carry this burden of knowing it happened in our past, knowing that there has never been justice, and that there hasn’t been acknowledgement (Marcia Langton, The Australian Wars, 2022).

History must not be a cross we should carry as a nation into the future. (Charles Perkins, 1993)

Defending Country Memorial Project
30 November 2023
Contact: David Stephens info@defendingcountry.au

Nov 30, 2023

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