Indigenous leader Patrick Dodson has delivered the 2008 Sydney Peace Prize lecture.
The Aboriginal rights advocate has called for Australia to mirror the US President-elect Barack Obama’s policies.
Mr Dodson used the platform to call for compensation for Aboriginal people and for the ownership of Indigenous land to be recognised in the constitution.
He says Indigenous people are headed for an apocalyptic disaster if there are no changes and Australia should be inspired by the United States president-elect’s commitment to raise the status of Native Americans.
“The American President-elect has begun his dialogue, we must begin and complete the same journey here in our own country.” he said.
Mr Dodson also labelled the Commonwealth intervention in the Northern Territory a “crude, racist and poorly considered policy”.
He said legislation introduced into Federal Parliament to allow the intervention was “some of the worst ever passed”.
“The failure by the Government to enter into a dialogue and negotiation over the nature of the engagement with the Aboriginal society of the Northern Territory will be seen by Australians in the future as a model for worst-practice imposition of public policy,” he said.
The Indigenous leader said it was important for Indigenous people to play a role in determining solutions for their problems “and be resourced to do so”.
However he also acknowledged that illicit drugs and abuse of alcohol had led to greater intergenerational health problems in Aboriginal communities, including schizophrenia, diabetes, coronary and renal disease.
“They are primarily outcomes of the exclusion of many Aboriginal people from access to services and resources related to health, education and substance abuse programs over many years and several generations,” he said.
Mr Dodson called on young Aborigines to participate in government strategies aimed at bringing more indigenous people into the nation’s workforce.
“The opportunity is there for you to enter the workforce, but you should look to the possibilities in other fields apart from the traditional industries and aim to become creators as well as wealth consumers,” he said.
Mr Dodson will receive the 2008 award tonight at a gala ceremony in the Great Hall of Sydney University.
Previous award recipients include former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Swedish diplomat and nuclear disarmament advocate Dr Hans Blix.
The Sydney Peace Foundation award is Australia’s only international peace prize.
Pat Dodson delivers peace prize lecture
November 5, 2008 – 10:59PM
The winner of this year’s Sydney Peace Prize, Aboriginal leader Patrick Dodson, has labelled the commonwealth intervention in the Northern Territory a “crude, racist and poorly considered policy”.
Delivering his peace prize lecture at the Sydney Opera House, Mr Dodson said legislation introduced into federal parliament to allow the intervention was “some of the worst ever passed”.
“The failure by the government to enter into a dialogue and negotiation over the nature of the engagement with the Aboriginal society of the Northern Territory will be seen by Australians in the future as a model for worst-practice imposition of public policy,” he said.
The former priest and founding chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, now disbanded, said it was important for indigenous people to play a role in determining solutions for their problems “and be resourced to do so”.
For more on the Peace Prize see http://www.usyd.edu.au/news/84.html?newscategoryid=10&newsstoryid=2779