With the passing of Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG, we have lost a formidable leader of our movement.
We remember Dr O’Donoghue as a strong, fearless woman, who engaged with politics and with institutions at a time when Aboriginal women were under-recognised and under-represented in national leadership.
Her nine decades of life span a time of momentous change in Australian Indigenous politics; but her work extended way beyond the confines of First Nations policy and had a profound impact on the entire country. She was a nation builder.
She was there at every milestone and achievement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
She was a renowned consensus builder and as a leader was highly skilled in gently moving protagonists towards agreement.
Her life impacted all of us – black and white – and her spirit, energy and dedication live on.
She campaigned during the 1967 referendum, was the founding chair of the National Aboriginal Conference in 1977 and the first chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1990.
Dr O’Donoghue was also a member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. She said at the beginning of the reconciliation process:
“We have a long way to go but there is no turning back. For Indigenous Australians, the acid test of reconciliation will be improved health, better housing, education and employment.
Reconciliation is the way of the future, our shared future in which Australia is united as one people with many rich cultures and a commitment to justice and equity.”
Her life and her work inspires us all to do better and to keep going.
Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.