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Told she’d never make anything of herself, Lowitja O’Donoghue, Australian of the Year, AC, CBE, DSG and recipient of the papal honour of Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great, not to mention several honorary degrees, certainly proved this assertion wrong. In this authorised biography, Stuart Rintoul details Lowitja’s life and Australia’s indigenous history against government policies, laws and legislation.

Born in Indulkana, northern South Australia to a Pitjantjatjara mother, Lily, in 1932, she was the fifth of six children.  However, when she was two years old, her Irish father, Tom O’Donoghue, took Lowitja and two of her siblings to Colebrook Home for Half- Cast Children; cutting her off completely from her people and culture.  After gaining her Intermediate Certificate she entered her Leaving Year but left before taking the exam, because at 16, she undertook her first job as nanny for a family of six children in Victor Harbor. Later while working as a nurse’ aide in Victor Harbor, she decided to undertake nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital; obtaining admittance to the course proved quite difficult.

Leaving her position as charge nurse, she spent a brief time in Assam, India working a nurse relieving on leave missionaries. In 1962, due to the Sino-Indian War, she returned to South Australia, as an aboriginal liaison officer in the Education Department. The next 50 years would see Lowitja become one of Australia’s most respected and recognisable indigenous leaders. Her commitment to Aboriginal people, human rights and social justice, can never be overestimated; these were challenging times.

Readers who enjoy biographies will thoroughly enjoy ‘Lowitja’; a dignified, extraordinary woman, a great Australian and remarkable leader. However, I also highly recommend this comprehensive, well researched and documented book, to readers who want to get a better understanding of the history of Aboriginal affairs, workings of Aboriginal agencies and of government policy in modern Australia.

Author Stuart Rintoul
Publisher Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760875602
Distributor Allen & Unwin
Released September 2020