Australia

NT treaty commissioner to discuss future

The Northern Territory’s highly-paid Indigenous treaty commissioner Mick Dodson has been called to a meeting to discuss his future following allegations he publicly threatened a woman.

NT Minister for Treaty Selena Uibo summoned Professor Dodson, 71, to talk about the impact of the claim after he was accused of verbally abusing an Aboriginal woman at a Darwin football game in January.

The former Australian of the Year has not admitted nor denied the allegation, and through his lawyer said he doesn’t remember the incident but did agree the alleged conduct was disgraceful.

Ms Uibo has written to Prof Dodson to express her concern and “strongly condemns any threatening or aggressive behaviour, towards any other individual, particularly from senior officials”.

“I have requested that the commissioner meets with me to discuss the impact of the allegation on his role as treaty commissioner,” she said in a statement on Friday.

Earlier, Ms Uibo said she received a complaint about Prof Dodson in late March and directed the chief executive of the NT Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet to seek a formal response from him.

The department is understood to have completed its investigation.

The issue was also referred to the NT Independent Commission Against Corruption, which returned it to the DCMC as an employment matter.

Yawuru man Prof Dodson was named the Australian of the Year in 2009 for his work advocating for the rights of Indigenous Australians.

As a barrister specialising in native title and human rights, he assisted the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in the 1980s.

In 1993, he was appointed as Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, a post he held until 1998.

He was appointed NT’s Treaty Commissioner in 2019 and is also a former chief executive of the Northern Land Council.

Prof Dodson’s lawyer David De Silva said his client has been receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, which emanates from his childhood.

“Upon being advised of the incident Prof Dodson’s immediate response to the complainant’s representatives was to agree with their description of the alleged conduct as being disgraceful,” he said.

“The medical advice given to Prof Dodson is that continued treatment will assist in managing and overcoming the effects of PTSD.”

Leader of the Opposition Lia Finocchiaro has called on the NT government to stand Prof Dodson down and publicly release the findings from the investigation into the allegations.

“He simply cannot continue in his important and highly-paid position, while these allegations hang over his head,” she said.

Prof Dodson’s role as NT treaty commissioner’s is to consult with Aboriginal people and develop a framework for future treaty negotiations.

He is understood to be paid $290,000 annually and can only be removed from the role by a vote of parliament or resigning.

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