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Lowitja O'Donoghue, champion of Aboriginal rights, passes away at 91

Steven Deare -

Warning: This report contains the name and image of someone who had died.

Indigenous rights advocate Lowitja O'Donoghue, who lobbied for native title and was a trailblazer for the recognition of Aboriginal people, has died aged 91.

Aboriginal rights advocate and trailblazer Lowitja O'Donoghue, who played a pivotal role in native title legislation and was the first Aboriginal person to address the United Nations, has died at home in Adelaide, aged 91.

The Yankunytjatjara woman was the inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 1990 and later lobbied the Keating government to recognise Aboriginal land ownership through the native title laws.

In 1992 O'Donoghue addressed the United Nations General Assembly as part of its year of indigenous peoples.

She rose to prominence after she became the first Aboriginal person to train as a nurse at Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1954.

She sought the support of then South Australian premier Thomas Playford after initially being denied the opportunity because of her Indigenous heritage.

Niece Deb Edwards said her aunt died peacefully on Sunday on Kauma Country in Adelaide with her immediate family by her side.

"Aunty Lowitja dedicated her entire lifetime of work to the rights, health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," she said.

"We thank and honour her for all that she has done - for all the pathways she created, for all the doors she opened, for all the issues she tackled head on, for all the tables she sat at and for all the arguments she fought and won."

O'Donoghue was named Australian of the Year in 1984.

The non-profit Lowitja O'Donoghue Foundation was setup in 2022 to continue her legacy.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

Steven Deare - AAP

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