Aboriginal leader cries recalling how the Queen 'made us feel human'

Powerful moment Aboriginal elder breaks down talking about meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace: ‘For the first time in our lives we were treated properly – as human beings’

  • Patrick Dodson said when he first met the Queen she ‘made us feel human’
  • Dodson and First Nations leaders met the Queen before the 1999 republic vote
  • The vote was narrowly defeated with 55 per cent in favour of keeping the Queen
  • Dodson:  ‘I think for the first time in our lives, we were treated properly’
  • Full coverage: Click here to see all our coverage of the Queen’s passing

An Aboriginal elder has wiped away tears speaking about how Queen Elizabeth II treated Indigenous leaders with dignity and respect ‘for the first time in our lives’ during a meeting at Buckingham Palace. 

Patrick Lionel Djargun Dodson, an elder of the Yarawu people, and an Aboriginal delegation met the Queen in 1999 as Australia prepared to vote on whether or not to become a republic.

During the ABC documentary, The Queen and Us, Mr Dodson – who is now a federal Labor senator – said: ‘We got in there and we were totally disarmed. 

‘It’s a funny thing, to feel a bit emotional about it, because she was so welcoming. 

‘And she thanked us for coming. And, she … I think for the first time in our lives, we were treated properly.’ 

‘She treated us as human beings.’

Aboriginal leader and Australian senator Patrick Dodson (pictured) reduced to tears as he spoke about the Queen and how for the first time in his life he felt treated like a human being

First Nations leaders took to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen in 1999 and said the Queen was genuinely interested to hear from them and about their stories

Queen Elizabeth II addressing the Australian people before the 1999 republic referendum vote

Mr Dodson said he and First Nations people can tell ‘a mile away when words are bull**** ‘.

He said they have seen it most of their lives in Australia – but that the Queen was genuinely interested to hear from them and about their stories.

The 1999 republic vote was narrowly defeated with 55 per cent of voters in favour of keeping the monarchy – largely due to concerns about the proposed model of how the republic should look.

However, in the wake of the Queen’s passing, some republicans have a renewed their calls for the nation to break ties with the royal family.

Adam Bandt, leader of the Greens party, tweeted that ‘Australia must move forward’ in the wake of her passing and that ‘we need to become a Republic’.

Mehreen Faruqi, his deputy, went even further – saying she ‘cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples. We are reminded of the urgency of… becoming a republic,’ she said, before adding: ‘Condolences to those who knew the Queen.’

Less than an hour after her death was announced, the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) also called for ties to the British monarchy to be severed.

Peter FitzSimons, who leads the Australian Republican Movement, released a statement saying it was ‘unlikely we will ever see a Monarch as respected or admired by the Australian people again’.

‘A phenomenal number of people have said to me over the years, ‘I’m absolutely with you, but not until the Queen passes away’,’ he said.

‘And I expect now there will be a surge of interest, of membership, of donations.

‘With the greatest respect to Charles III – and I mean that; I have nothing against him personally – he does not enjoy the same deep wellspring of affection and loyalty that Her Majesty did.’

However, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese shut down talks of Australia soon becoming a republic.

Despite being in favour of Australia replacing the monarchy with a local head of state – and appointing an assistant minister for a republic – he said a referendum would not happen in his first term.

Mr Albanese said out of ‘deep respect and admiration’ for The Queen his government will not pursue ‘questions about our constitution’ at least until he was reelected for a second term. 

‘Now is not a time to talk about our system of government, now is a time for us to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth,’ he told the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

‘That’s the system of government that we have, it’s one which as Australian prime minister, I have a responsibility to respect.’

Governor-General David Hurley and prime minister Anthony Albanese at the proclamation outside Parliament House on Sunday

A June survey by polling company Essential found 44 per cent of Australians backed the country becoming a republic, down from 48 per cent in March.

The poll also found 40 per cent of those in the 18-34 age group were against the move – the highest of any group.

King Charles III was proclaimed Australia’s monarch at a ceremony at Parliament House on Sunday by Governor-General David Hurley.

Mr Albanese also announced Australians would get a one-off public holiday to mourn the loss of the late Queen on the National Day of Mourning on September 22.

‘It will be a one-off national public holiday to allow people to pay their respects for the passing of Queen Elizabeth,’ he said.

Peter FitzSimons, who leads the Republican Movement, released a statement saying it was ‘unlikely we will ever see a Monarch as respected or admired by the Australian people again’

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