Labor senator Pat Dodson to resign from politics due to health issues

labor senator pat dodson to resign from politics due to health issues

Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Pat Dodson, the Labor senator known as the father of reconciliation, will resign from the Senate on Australia Day because of persistent ill health following cancer treatment.

Dodson said on Tuesday while his health was improving he was “physically unable” to carry out his full range of duties as a senator for Western Australia.

“I am grateful for the professional and kindly attention of many medical staff over the past few months, and I wish to thank all those people who sent their best wishes during my absence from parliament,” he said.

While confirming his intention to resign, the high-profile Indigenous leader and Yawuru elder said it had been an honour to serve in the Senate, and thanked two Labor leaders – Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten.

Dodson said he wanted to place on record his “high regard” for Albanese’s decision to proceed with the voice referendum, and he was grateful to Shorten for nominating him in March 2016 when a casual Senate vacancy arose.

The prime minister said Dodson’s decision to retire from politics filled him with sadness and gratitude. Albanese characterised the outgoing senator as “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,” Albanese said. “From the moment he entered parliament, he has made this place a better one.”

Albanese noted Dodson’s distinguished record of public service – a commissioner into Aboriginal deaths in custody, the first chair of Reconciliation Australia, and director of the Central Land Council and the Kimberley Land Council.

He said Dodson had “shone a spotlight on the gaping chasm in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and put forward solutions grounded in policy reform”.

Albanese said Dodson was friend, colleague and counsellor. He said Dodson’s parliamentary service had gifted every member of the Labor caucus the example of “his wisdom, his courage, his fearless conviction and his eternal good humour”.

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