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State funeral for Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue

A state funeral will be held on March 8 for Indigenous rights trailblazer and former Australian of the Year Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue, who died earlier this month aged 91.

Feb 20, 2024, updated Feb 20, 2024
Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue will be honoured with a state funeral on March 8. Photo: AAP

Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue will be honoured with a state funeral on March 8. Photo: AAP

Premier Peter Malinauskas announced on Tuesday that the service would be held from 1pm at St Peter’s Cathedral, North Adelaide.

Registration to attend is essential, via dpc.sa.gov.au and Eventbrite.

A livestream of proceedings will be available for those unable to attend.

The state government said it would offer Dr O’Donoghue’s family a state funeral following her death at home in Adelaide on February 4.

Among many achievements, the Yankunytjatjara woman played a key role in the 1967 referendum, lobbied the Keating government to recognise Indigenous land ownership through Native Title laws and advised on the Rudd Government’s Apology to the Stolen Generations.

O’Donoghue was born at Indulkana on the APY Lands in South Australia’s Far North in 1932, but at age two was sent to a children’s home at Quorn.

In 1954 she became the first Aboriginal nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and in the 60s joined the SA branch of the federal Office of Aboriginal Affairs. O’Donoghue also was a member of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement before being appointed Regional Director of the SA Department of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

She campaigned for the 1967 referendum which changed the constitution to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the population.

O’Donoghue’s continued advocacy and leadership was recognised when she was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1977, received the Advance Australia award in 1982, was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1983, and in 1984 was named Australian of the Year.

In 1990, O’Donoghue was appointed inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, playing a pivotal role in negotiations with the Keating Labor Government which led to recognising Aboriginal land ownership through the Native Title Act.

In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd sought O’Donoghue’s advice on his Apology to the Stolen Generations, while Australia’s national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research is named in her honour and a non-profit Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation was set up in 2022 to continue her legacy.

The state government said that in lieu of flowers, O’Donoghue’s family had requested that people and organisations please consider a donation to Foundation via www.lowitja.org.au/lowitja-foundation/donate

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