Professor Mick Dodson AM

Australian of the Year 2009, National Australia Day Council (NADC)

Each year, the Australian nation celebrates the achievement and contribution of eminent Australians through the Australian of the Year Awards. Professor Mick Dodson AM was named Australian of the Year 2009.

The ANU National Centre for Indigenous Studies congratulates its Director, Professor Mick Dodson AM, for having been named Australian of the Year 2009.

Professor Dodson has been an advocate for Indigenous rights, human rights and social justice for the better part of his life. His dedication has attracted national and international acclaim. In many instances, he has played an instrumental role in events of historic importance in Australia and globally. Like others driven by passion, he works tirelessly and sometimes at great personal sacrifice. Above all, he is a humanitarian.

Some of Professor Dodson's accomplishments read like milestones in Australian history: he was the first Indigenous lawyer admitted to the Victorian Bar and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; he participated in drafting the federal Native Title Act (1993), the legislative expression of native title rights recognised in the watershed Mabo case; he was a pivotal part of the 'Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody' and the 'Bringing Them Home Report', both of which remain highly influential documents that triggered legal reform, heralded a shift in the nation's awareness of its past and led to an acknowledgement (and recently a formal prime ministerial apology) for the policies of forced removal of Indigenous children from their families.

At the international level, Professor Dodson has campaigned to put the human rights of the world's indigenous peoples on the United Nations agenda and has participated for over a decade in bringing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to fruition. As the current community representative for the Pacific region at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Professor Dodson continues his vital service to the Australian community and especially to Indigenous peoples, at home and worldwide.

Australian of the Year Award presentation

The Award was presented to Professor Dodson at the Australian of the Year Awards ceremony on Australia Day eve, 25 January 2009, by the then-Prime Minister of Australian, The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, and the NADC Chair, Mr Adam Gilchrist AM.

» view Professor Dodson's biography video (YouTube video 6:05).

» view Professor Dodson's list of activities and public engagements as the 2009 Australian of the Year (PDF 1.28MB).

Professor Dodson's acceptance speech

Professor Michael Dodson is widely recognised as a proud, courageous and humble Aboriginal leader who has spent his adult life trying to explain to people why and how they can help his people. A Yawuru man from the Broome area, the contribution he has made to improving the lives of indigenous Australians is inestimable. He has pursued justice and reconciliation through a process of education, awareness and inclusive dialogue with all Australians. Mick's official roles tell only a small part of the story of what he does. He has served in a variety of challenging and highly sensitive roles at community level, with governments, the United Nations and in academia. In addition he has always actively mentored, nurtured and promoted young Aboriginal leaders, and encouraged respect between people of all cultures. He has described himself as a 'persistent bugger' and is uncompromising in arguing for justice and good sense. He champions the successes of the Indigenous community but also expects accountability for failures. He doesn't shy away from difficult questions or issues. As Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia, Mick's dream is to achieve reconciliation in this country, and a better future for his people. An outstanding Australian, Mick represents integrity, wisdom and compassion.

(Introduction provided by the National Australia Day Council)

Address to the National Press Club, 18 February 2009

At the invitation of the National Press Club, Professor Dodson spoke of his sincere hope that by Australia Day 2010, every Australian child would be geared up for school. He entreated every Australian – individuals, communities, educationalists, politicians, children, the media – to take personal responsibility for effecting this change and achieve what is a human right for all Australian children. He also advocated an inclusive approach in education towards Indigenous history and Indigenous culture, a culture that the nation could take pride in as the world's oldest and most enduring people. Reconciliation, he said, would be achieved by actions that were simultaneously practical and symbolic, and he disputed any distinction between the two as false.

As Australian of the Year, Professor Dodson said he would focus on education, and committed to personally visit and consult with schools, find and publicise pedagogic successes, and work with colleagues to institute the ANU Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), including its equitable initiatives, to create an educational environment that offers the best chance of success at education and research.

» read Professor Dodson's address to the National Press Club (PDF 52.8KB)

» read the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory's response to Professor Dodson's National Press Club speech (PDF 58.2KB)

Media coverage

Australian of the Year Awards, Tour of Honour

The Australian of the Year Awards program's Tour of Honour brings the recipients of the nation's most respected honour into contact with school students and community members to share their inspiring stories.

» read more about the Tour of Honour on the Australian of the Year Awards website


As part of his Tour of Honour, Professor Mick Dodson joined Ms Jonty Bush – the 2009 Young Australian of the Year, Mr Pat LaManna – the 2009 Senior Australian of the Year, and Mr Graeme Drew – Australia's Local Hero 2009, to visit Adelaide schools and community organisations from 23-25 June 2009.

» read the media release for the Adelaide schools tour (PDF 70KB)

Northern Territory

Professor Mick Dodson enjoyed a very successful tour of schools in the Northern Territory with Chief Minister Paul Henderson.

» read the media release for the Milner Primary School tour (PDF 348KB)

» read the media release for the Ngukurr School and Katherine High School tour (PDF 348KB)

Professor Dodson with students of Ngkurr School and the Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year.

Professor Dodson with students of Wagaman Primary School.

Professor Dodson and the Northern Territory Chief Minister with students from Katherine High School.

Australian Capital Territory

Radford College invited Professor Dodson, on 23 March 2009, to address Year 11 and 12 history students who had been studying the Northern Territory intervention, the national apology to the Stolen Generations, treaties and the period of first contact. It was a rare opportunity for students to engage with one of the pivotal figures behind the influential 'Bringing Them Home Report', which heralded a shift in the nation's awareness of its past relationship with Indigenous people.

Wanniassa School received a commendation from Professor Dodson on 3 March 2009, for their innovative Achievement Centre, designed for children disengaged with learning. Having mentored young Indigenous leaders, Professor Dodson appreciated the primacy of individualised support provided by the Achievement Centre. While at the school, Professor Dodson also launched the school's Reconciliation Action Plan (PDF 1.7MB).

Updated:  1 May 2015/ Responsible Officer:  NCIS Project Coordinator/ Page Contact:  NCIS Administrative Officer