Policeman who stood up is honoured

Fitzgerald Inquiry whistleblower is Queensland Senior Australian of the Year

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COURAGE OF HIS CONVICTIONS: Former police inspector Colin Dillon receives his award from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Photo: Salty Dingo

COURAGE OF HIS CONVICTIONS: Former police inspector Colin Dillon receives his award from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Photo: Salty Dingo

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Colin Dillon's evidence was instrumental in sending many corrupt officers to jail.

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Dr Colin Dillon AM APM, Australia's first Indigenous police officer, is the 2022 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year 2022 - and he couldn't be more surprised.

"It came out of left field, it truly did. But it's nice to be recognised for what I've done at this stage of my life," he told The Senior.

And his achievements have been considerable, helping change the culture of policing in this state.

When Colin entered the Queensland Police Force in 1965, he became Australia's first Indigenous police officer. This was two years before the referendum introducing the counting of Aboriginal people in the Census, and a decade before ratification of the Racial Discrimination Act.

In 1987, Colin showed courage as the first serving police officer to voluntarily step forward and give first-hand knowledge under oath before the Fitzgerald Inquiry into Police Corruption.

His evidence was instrumental in sending many corrupt officers, including the police commissioner, Sir Terence Lewis (later stripped of his knighthood) and four ministers to jail. Former premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was charged with perjury, although his trial was aborted due to a hung jury.

Yet all of this came at some cost to his health and happiness. "But after the Fitzgerald inquiry's recommendations life began to look upwards," he said. "Things have changed dramatically and for the better."

Later Colin wrote a book about his experiences, Code of Silence.

He said it was written "in the hope of inspiring others to speak out when they know things are not right. By shining a light on corruption they will not only expose wrongdoers but empower those who are behaving more honestly.

"Wherever there is power and money, there is always the risk of corruption. But everyone has a choice: to be involved or to take a stand against it."

Colin has been awarded the Australian Police Medal and received an honorary doctorate from Queensland University of Technology.

In 2013, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the Indigenous community, with which he remains involved, attending meetings "from time to time when I'm invited".

After retiring from the police in 2000, Colin served as chairman of Indigenous radio station 98.9FM and as a director of the Queensland Heart Foundation.

At present, the 77-year-old is a community member on the Parole Board of Queensland.

"I've also got grandchildren and I spend a lot of time with them, although they're now young adults. I'm also a reader but not fiction."

Colin was born in Nambour, where both his parents were descendants of the Kombumerri people of the Yugambeh nation. Before joining the force he grew up in Caloundra. He lives in McDowall, is married and has a son and a daughter.

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