Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue AC CBE DSG died last week at the age of 91. She was a proud Yankunytjatjara woman and a great Australian. Noel Pearson called her 'our greatest leader of the modern era'.
The Lowitja Institute released a statement and media release. An extract:
A true trailblazer, leader and advocate for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Indigenous peoples globally, Dr O’Donoghue lived a remarkable life and made an enormous contribution to public life and the pursuit of justice and equity.
Her commitment to championing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and health research will always be remembered, and her legacy continues through her family, the Lowitja Institute and Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation.
A proud Yankunytjatjara woman, Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue was born in 1932 in the remote north-west corner of South Australia and was removed from her mother at just two years old. Lowitja and her siblings grew up at Colebrook Children’s Home at Quorn, South Australia. They weren’t allowed to speak their own language or to ask questions about their origins or even about their parents. The missionaries gave Lowitja the name, Lois. Lowitja did not see her mother again for more than 30 years, until reunited with her in 1967 at Oodnadatta.
In what she described at the time as her final speech, Dr O'Donoghue said this in 2008 at St Peter's Cathedral in Adelaide:
There is no point in talking about the fundamental equality of all people if we are content to stand by and look the other way as one group within our community falls apart ...The journey of healing will not have succeeded until the profile of Aboriginal people matches that of other Australians on all measurable criteria of well-being. That must be our benchmark ...
You are invited to join the Reconciliation Journey of Healing and Justice. Will you go?
Finally, before you answer that question, I’d like you to consider the words of Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal activist in Queensland in the 1970s, who said, and I quote: "If you are coming to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
Photo: Leanne King