Australian Biography: Lowitja O'Donoghue

Head and shoulders portrait of Indigenous activist Lois O'Donoghue, smiling directly at camera.
Australian Biography: Lowitja O'Donoghue
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons

Lois O’Donoghue was born at Indulkana in the remote north-west of South Australia in 1932, a time when the situation for Aboriginal people could not have been more desperate.

Lois never knew her white father. At the age of two she was taken away from her mother, who she was not to see for another 33 years. Her quest to be reunited with her mother is central to her story.

After a long struggle to win admission to a training hospital, Lois became the first black nurse in South Australia. Later, she became more involved in Aboriginal rights and worked tirelessly for her people.

In 1976, Lois was the first Aboriginal woman to be awarded an Order of Australia. In 1983 she was honoured with a CBE and in 1984 she was made Australian of the Year. In March 1990 Lois became the founding chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.