Cultural Advice

Aboriginal Peoples are advised the Library Collection contains images, voices and names of deceased people in physical and online resources.

The Library recognises the significance of the traditional cultural knowledges contained within its Collection. The Library acknowledge some materials contain language that may not reflect current attitudes, was published without consent or recognition, or, is offensive. These materials reflect the views of the authors and/or the period in which they were produced and do not represent the views of the Library.

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The Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue Collection includes books, reports and documents relating to Aboriginal cultures, heritage, advocacy and rights, memorabilia from the Sydney 2000 Olympics, along with books, awards, correspondence and memorabilia including honorary doctorate gowns and hats.

Banner image by Leanne King courtesy of Lowitja O'Donoghue Foundation

Access and explore the collection

The Collection is housed at the University of South Australia City West Campus. Access is by appointment only. 

Contact Ask the Library to make an appointment or for more information.

You can discover what is in the Collection through the Box List, or explore the Collection by browsing Collection Discovery or searching the Special Collections Catalogue.


Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue was a member of the Yankunytjatjara people of northwest South Australia. She was a survivor of the Stolen Generations and an advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights. Throughout her life, O’Donoghue worked towards the improving the health and welfare of Aboriginal peoples. In 1962, O'Donoghue took on a role with the State Government as an Aboriginal Liaison Officer and later as a Welfare Officer. In 1967, she moved into the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs where she became the Director in 1975, making her the first Aboriginal person to head an Australian government department.

O'Donoghue was appointed as the inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1990. She was the first Aboriginal person to address the United Nations General Assembly during the launch of the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Peoples in 1992.

In 1976, O’Donoghue was the first Aboriginal woman to be inducted into the Order of Australia. She was awarded Australian of the Year in 1984, in recognition of her work to improve Aboriginal welfare. O’Donoghue was inducted into the Olympic Order in 2000 and acted as the Chairperson of the Sydney Olympic Games National Indigenous Advisory Committee and carried the Olympic torch through Uluru. O’Donoghue received a Papal Award, Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 2006, and the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. She received several honorary doctorates and fellowships from various Australian educational institutions including the University of South Australia.

O'Donoghue was a patron of The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, and The Lowitja Institute, a health research institute which is named in her honour. In commemoration of her 90th birthday, the Lowitja Institute launched the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation, which aims to recognise and preserve her work and legacy and provides educational resources and scholarships to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

O'Donoghue retired from public life in 2008. She died peacefully with her family by her side on February 4th 2024 on Kaurna Country in Adelaide, South Australia.

Picture - Lowitja O'Donoghue with Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Clyde Holding and Merle Jackomos at the Lodge, July 1983, image courtesy of the National Archives of Australia. NAA: A1680, 8/7/83/18, from the Bob Hawke Collection RH24/2/F14/15

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Biographical information

Featuring Lowitja O'Donoghue

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