Trailblazing Indigenous Leader Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue Dies Aged 91

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned this article contains images of a deceased person.

Renowned Indigenous leader and former Australian of the Year, Dr. Lowitja O’Donoghue, has passed away at the age of 91 in Adelaide.

Hailing from APY Lands, she dedicated her life to advocating for the rights, health, and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In 1984, she was honoured as Australian of the Year.

Renowned Indigenous leader and former Australian of the Year, Dr. Lowitja O'Donoghue, has passed away at the age of 91 in Adelaide. Credit: supplied.
Renowned Indigenous leader and former Australian of the Year, Dr. Lowitja O’Donoghue, has passed away at the age of 91 in Adelaide. Credit: supplied.

Described by South Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher as a “trailblazer,” O’Donoghue’s impact on Indigenous rights and leadership was significant.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese lauded her as “one of the most remarkable leaders this country has ever known.”

He acknowledged her courageous leadership during the Mabo debates, her role as chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and her involvement in the apology to the Stolen Generation and the 1967 referendum.

Despite facing challenges, including separation from family and discrimination, O’Donoghue maintained an unyielding faith in the possibility of a more united and reconciled Australia.

Albanese emphasised her enduring efforts to improve the lives of Indigenous communities and achieve meaningful reconciliation.

As the nation mourns her passing, the Prime Minister expressed gratitude for the positive impact she made.

“As we mourn her passing, we give thanks for the better Australia she helped make possible,” he said.

In 1976, she received the distinguished recognition of being named a member of the Order of Australia, followed by the prestigious title of Australian of the Year in 1984.

Her outstanding contributions were further acknowledged with the honour of becoming a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1983 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1999.

Adding to her accolades, she was bestowed with honorary doctorates from six universities.

Despite being offered the role of governor-general, she declined the position due to her republican stance. Her remarkable achievements and steadfast commitment to her values have left an enduring legacy in the realm of honours and recognitions.

Dr. O’Donoghue’s legacy lives on through the work of the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation, established on her 90th birthday, ensuring her contributions to Indigenous advocacy continue to shape a more inclusive and equitable Australia.

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