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Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG – 1 August 1932 - 4 February 2024

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06 February 2024

This post contains imagery and discussion of a deceased Aboriginal person. We are grateful to the O’Donoghue Family for their permission. 

It is with profound sadness tempered with fierce pride that we mourn the passing of indomitable Yankunytjatjara woman Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue, who passed peacefully at the age of 91 on Kaurna land yesterday. All of us at AHCSA wish to convey our condolences to those close to her.

Admired and respected in both worlds and around the world, Dr O'Donoghue achieved things that are too significant and too many in number to be listed here. The charitable foundation that bears her name has published a biography and summary of Dr O'Donoghue's life that is nigh-unbelievable in scope. Yet it is accurate; click here to read it

Dr O'Donoghue's journey was forced upon her when she was removed from her mother at the age of two and relocated to a Mission home in the Flinders Ranges. Her life took her to all points of South Australia, from Quorn to Eden Hills, Unley, Waitpinga, Victor Harbor, Adelaide (where she was the first Aboriginal trainee nurse, rising to the position of Charge sister), Belair, Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta (where she was reunited with her mother), the APY Lands, and Point McLeay. She travelled to India as a relief nurse, the first Aboriginal person to do so, and in 1992 was the first Aboriginal person to address the United Nations General Assembly, during the launch of the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Peoples.



Our community has lost a selfless leader and role model who touched countless lives with her generosity, tenacity, and belief in the possibility of a bright future for our people. Her legacy will continue through the many seeds she planted to ensure a better world for those who came after her. It is up to us to nurture those seeds through our own lives and work, with Dr O'Donoghue's words ringing in our ears:

“Your job is to work ceaselessly, with confidence in who we are, with our knowledge timeless and modern, our endless strength and resilience, our capacity for hard work, our wise heads, our wonderful talented young.”

On behalf of AHCSA staff, management, board, and our communities, Vale Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG.


Patrick Moriarty, Acting CEO
Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia Ltd



The O'Donoghue family has asked people and organisations to consider a donation to the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation in memory of Dr O’Donoghue.

Photo credits:

(1) Addressing United Nations general assembly, Geneva 1992 - Lowitja O'Donoghue Collection

(2) Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue AC CBE DSG 2010 Lowitja Institute launch Parliament House Canberra - credit Lowitja Institute