Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content


  • Faith, Hope and Charity Australian Women and Imperial Honours: 1901-1989
  • The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

O'Donoghue, Lowitja (1932 - )

AC, CBE, 2001 Victorian Honour Roll of Women

1 August 1932
Indulkana, South Australia, Australia
Nurse and Community worker


A Pitjantjatjara woman, Lowitja O'Donoghue has worked for Aboriginal organisations or in Indigenous affairs for the last 30 years. She was the Founding Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, 1990-1996. O'Donoghue is one of the most prominent members of the stolen generation.


Born in 1932, in Indulkana, South Australia, Pitjantjatjara woman Lowita O'Donoghue was separated from her family at the age of two. She was taken by missionaries to the Colebrook Children's home and brought up, by the name of Lois, under the white education system. O'Donoghue attended Unley General Technical High School, then trained as a nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. She worked as a nurse from 1961-1972, partly among Aboriginal communities in northern South Australia. She was a member of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (1970-1972), and later regional director of the Adelaide Department of Aboriginal Affairs (1975-1976). O'Donoghue has since worked in various capacities in the areas of health, housing, community development, Aboriginal and Islander studies, Native Title and the Sydney Olympics.

O'Donoghue has received many awards and accolades for her work, including being named Australian of the Year (1984), a National Living Treasure (1998), wining the Advance Australia award in 1982 and being appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 1977, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1983, and a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1999. O'Donoghue was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians (1998) and the Royal College of Nursing. She also holds an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the Australian National University and Notre Dame University, and is a Doctor of Flinders University, as well as the Australian National University (ANU), University of South Australia and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). She has been a Professorial Fellow at Flinders University since 2000.


Inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women

Sources used to compile this entry: Herd, Margaret (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 2002, 38 edn, Crown Content, Melbourne, 2002, 2020 pp; Horton, David (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and culture, Aboriginal Studies Press for AIATSIS, Canberra, 1994, 2 v. (xxxiii, 1340 p.) pp.

Related entries

Related Women

Clare Land

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124