Australia

'Father of Reconciliation' Pat Dodson to be Indigenous Affairs minister under Labor

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has tapped the 'Father of Reconciliation' Patrick Dodson to be Indigenous Affairs minister if Labor wins the federal election.

Patrick Dodson will be Bill Shorten's Indigenous Affairs minister if Labor wins power, making him the inaugural First Australian to hold the role.

"It is my sincere hope that all things being equal, if we win an election, Pat Dodson will be a minister in a Labor government," Mr Shorten said addressing a community barbecue on Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory.

"For the first time ever in the history of this country, we will have a First Australian in charge of Indigenous Affairs in Canberra," he said.

If Mr Shorten is elected on May 18, the caucus will nominate the MPs and senators it wants installed in the ministry.

He would then select the portfolios they receive.

Mr Shorten's comments represent a strong message to the caucus about his desire for Senator Dodson to enter cabinet.

BILL SHORTEN WITH ABORIGINAL ELDERS.
Bill Shorten says he'd ask Patrick Dodson, left, to take over Indigenous affairs portfolio, if Labor wins.
AAP

"He is my uncle in advising me about how to get the best deal possible for First Australians," Mr Shorten said.

"(But) there's plenty of water to go under the bridge."

Senator Dodson, dubbed the 'the Father of Reconciliation', entered parliament in April 2016. 

He currently chairs a parliamentary committee examining constitutional recognition.

He received the Sydney Peace Prize 2008. 

The Opposition Leader also used his visit to the Tiwi Islands to pledge to give more power to Indigenous communities and organisations, saying "paternalism" and "top down" approaches had failed.

"We want to try something different if we get elected," he said.

"We want to try bottom up control.

"We want to try the idea of Aboriginal-controlled organisations making decisions."

During the event Mr Shorten sat next to Robert Tipungwuti - a Tiwi Islands traditional owner.

Mr Tipungwuti previously played Aussie Rules alongside Senator Pat Dodson for the St Mary's club.

Mr Shorten was treated to a welcoming dance with Tiwi Islanders performing a traditional shark dance, boat dance and ladies canoe dance.

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