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Lowitja O'Donoghue - Reunion

Video clip synopsis – Aboriginal leader and founding chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Lowitja O’Donoghue has worked tirelessly for her people.
Year of production - 1994
Duration - 1min 15sec


Lowitja O'Donoghue - Reunion

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About the Video Clip


Lowitja O’Donoghue:Reunion is an excerpt from the program Lowitja O’Donoghue (26 mins), an episode of Australian Biography Series 3 (7×26 mins), produced in 1994.

Lowitja O’Donoghue: Lois O’Donoghue was born in 1932 in a remote Aboriginal community. She never knew her white father and, at the age of two, was taken away from her mother, who she was not to see for 33 years. After a long struggle to win admission to a training hospital, Lois became the first black nurse in South Australia. In 1976, she was the first Aboriginal woman to be awarded an Order of Australia. In 1983 she was honoured with a CBE and in 1984 she was made Australian of the Year. In 1990 she became the founding chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Since this Australian Biography interview, she has changed her name to Lowitja O’Donoghue.

Australian Biography Series 3: The Australian Biography series profiles some of the most extraordinary Australians of our time. Many have had a major impact on the nation’s cultural, political and social life. All are remarkable and inspiring people who have reached a stage in their lives where they can look back and reflect. Through revealing in-depth interviews, they share their stories – of beginnings and challenges, landmarks and turning points. In so doing, they provide us with an invaluable archival record and a unique perspective on the roads we, as a country, have travelled.

Australian Biography Series 3 is a Film Australia National Interest Program.

Background Information


In 1967 a national referendum to change the Constitution was held. There were two main changes requested. First, that Indigenous people be included in future national censuses. Secondly, that the federal government be granted powers to legislate for Indigenous people.
Almost 91% of voters accepted these changes. The federal government had campaigned for a “Yes” vote on the basis that the entire parliament was in favour of the changes, while others pressed for a “Yes” vote, arguing that the changes would present the image of a non-racist country in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Indigenous protest and lobbying now developed a stronger and more politically potent agenda. Amongst other things, they called for land rights, cultural heritage rights and recognition of the disadvantage experienced from colonisation – including the separation of children from their families. From the 1970s, governments gradually moved away from promoting assimilation and towards policies of self-determination and participation.

Lowitja O’Donoghue has played a pivotal role in the reconciliation process. Reconciliation involves acknowledging past treatment of Indigenous Australians, the contribution such treatment has made to current conditions for Indigenous Australians and 'moving forward’ to address these conditions. Speaking about possible feelings of resentment over past treatment by non-Indigenous Australia, Lowitja says, 'I don’t think it’s a very healthy feeling to have because… [it] stands in the way of moving forward.’

In 1992 federal parliament established the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR). The official aims of CAR included:
• building a united Australia, which respects the land
• valuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage
• providing justice and equity for all Australians.
It was formed with a two-year brief to advance the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

CAR concluded its activities in December 2000 when it released two important documents: the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and the Roadmap for Reconciliation. One of CAR’s concluding recommendations was that the government initiate a process to unite Australians through a formal agreement or treaty. This recommendation, and others, have not been accepted by the Australian government.

At the time it concluded its final deliberations in 2000, CAR established an independent organisation called Reconciliation Australia, the peak national organisation building and promoting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians for the wellbeing of the nation. Its vision statement includes the following important goals:
• achieving social and economic equity for Indigenous Australians
• acknowledging the past and building a framework for a shared future.

Today Reconciliation Australia’s stated ambition is that: “As a non-profit, independent organisation, we seek to eliminate the glaring gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. That the life of an Indigenous child is likely to end 17 years earlier than a non-Indigenous child’s is not acceptable in an affluent country like ours. All the work we do with our project partners is dedicated to narrowing that gap.”

Digital resources using the clip - Lowitja O'Donoghue - Reunion

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Lowitja O'Donoghue - Reunion

Aboriginal leader and founding chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Lowitja O’Donoghue has worked tirelessly for her people.

National / National Year 9 & 10 / National Year 9 & 10 Indigenous Studies / National Year 9 & 10 Indigenous Studies Political & civil rights