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Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue (Lowitja Foundation/Leanne King)

Lowitja O’Donoghue, a Yankunytjatjara leader, activist and a papal award recipient, has died at the age of 91. Source: The Guardian.

The Lowitja Institute announced her death yesterday on Kaurna Country in Adelaide, South Australia. A pioneering leader in Aboriginal advancement and recognition campaigns, Dr O’Donoghue was a “formidable leader who was never afraid to listen, speak and act”, her family said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Dr O’Donoghue as “one of the most remarkable leaders this country has ever known”.

“Dr O’Donoghue had an abiding faith in the possibility of a more united and reconciled Australia,” Mr Albanese said. “It was a faith she embodied with her own unceasing efforts to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to bring about meaningful and lasting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.”

Like other members of the stolen generations, Dr O’Donoghue was taken from her family and home at a young age and raised in an institution.

She became the first Aboriginal person to train as a nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the first Aboriginal person to be named a Companion of the Order of Australia, and the first to address the UN general assembly.

She campaigned for the recognition of Aboriginal peoples in the 1967 referendum and went on to work with then prime minister Paul Keating as a lead negotiator on the Native Title Act after the 1992 Mabo decision.

In 1984 she was named Australian of the Year and in 2005 was honoured with a papal award, becoming Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

She was the founding chair of the National Aboriginal Conference in 1977 and, in 1990, the first chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

Dr O’Donoghue was the first Aboriginal woman named in the Order of Australia in 1976, and later a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1999 – both for her commitment to public service and leadership in Indigenous affairs.

Her family yesterday gave permission for Dr O’Donoghue’s name and image to be used.


Lowitja O’Donoghue, celebrated campaigner for Aboriginal Australians, dies aged 91 (By Josh Butler and Daisy Dumas, The Guardian)


Tenacious leader an icon of the Aboriginal rights movement (The Australian)

Celebrated Indigenous leader Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue dies aged 91 (ABC News)