Legislative Council: Thursday, July 06, 2023


Lowitja O'Donoghue Oration

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:21): My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister inform the council on the recent Lowitja O'Donoghue Oration?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:21): I thank the honourable member for his question. I suspect he may have come up with that question after hearing the last one in relation to the Voice.

I had the privilege to attend the 16th annual Lowitja O'Donoghue Oration in Reconciliation Week. This oration is presented by the Don Dunstan Foundation in partnership with Reconciliation SA, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, the Lowitja Institute and the Lowitja O'Donoghue Foundation. This year was a particularly notable oration, as the keynote speaker was the Prime Minister, the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP. While I understand the Hon. Paul Keating has been an orator for the Lowitja O'Donoghue Oration in the past, this was the first time that a sitting Prime Minister has delivered they key address.

There have been many high-profile orators over 16 years, with Lowitja herself delivering the first oration in 2007. Since then, we have seen other significant Aboriginal leaders like Professor Pat Dodson, now a senator from WA in the Australian Senate; Professor Marcia Langton, one of the leading voices in the yes debate, who was in Adelaide recently; Noel Pearson; South Australia's David Rathman; Pat Anderson; and just last year, the Hon. Linda Burney, who presented her oration on the eve, the very day before being sworn in as Australia's Minister for Indigenous Australians in the federal parliament.

This annual oration honours the influence that Lowitja has had in advocating for the rights of equity and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our nation. Over her long and illustrious career, she has made significant contributions to various fields and achieved several notable accomplishments throughout her life.

Lowitja was born on the Oodnadatta mission in South Australia and was a member of the Stolen Generations, attending Eden Hills Colebrook mission in her youth. Despite these significant challenges, she overcame adversity and became a trailblazer. One of Lowitja's notable achievements was becoming the first Aboriginal nurse in Australia. She was trained in nursing here in Adelaide and went on to work at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where she actively campaigned for better health care and representation of Aboriginal people in the medical field.

Lowitja's advocacy extended beyond health care. She played a pivotal role in the establishment of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Gathering, which brought together Indigenous women from across Australia to address issues affecting their communities.

In 1990, Lowitja was appointed the founding chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. During her tenure she advocated for land rights, economic development, education and cultural preservation. Lowitja has been recognised in advancing reconciliation for Aboriginal rights. She was the first Aboriginal woman to be inducted into the Order of Australia, with an AO, and is a Companion of the Order of the British Empire, was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1919 and Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great (a papal award) in 2005, and was also named Australian of the Year in 1984. The calibre of people who have delivered the Lowitja O'Donoghue Oration speaks volumes of the stature of Lowitja O'Donoghue.