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Deb Edwards talks about Inaugural Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation Nursing Scholarships that is open

Inaugural Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation nursing scholarships now open

Deb Edwards is a Yankunytjatjara woman, born and raised in Adelaide on Kaurna land to my Aboriginal mother Amy and Hungarian father Matyas. Deb is my special guest after 8am this morning to yarn about the Inaugural Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation nursing scholarships.

Lowitja Institute and the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation are proud to announce the inaugural Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation Nursing Scholarships now open for 2023.

Upon its establishment in 2010, the Lowitja Institute was named in honour of its patron, Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue, arguably Australia’s most recognised Aboriginal woman – a powerful and unrelenting advocate for her people and an inspiration to many.

The Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation was announced on 1 August 2022 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG.

Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, CEO of Lowitja Institute, said the opening round of the inaugural scholarships in nursing is a tribute to the dedication and passion Dr O’Donoghue displayed throughout her extensive career in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“It is with such great pride we offer these inaugural scholarships for a Diploma of Nursing which are available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Australia wide,” Adjunct Professor Mohamed said.

“The Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation was established with the blessing of Dr O’Donoghue, who is delighted to encourage more nurses into the workforce to benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing outcomes.”

Yankunytjatjara woman Dr O’Donoghue has made an immensely significant contribution to the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, and has produced significant outcomes in health, education, political representation, land rights and reconciliation.

In 1954, Dr O’Donoghue became the first Aboriginal trainee nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia, resulting in triple certificate qualifications.

Adjunct Professor Mohamed said the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation acknowledges, recognises, and preserves the extraordinary legacy of Dr O’Donoghue’s dedicated lifetime of work, whilst creating opportunities for advancement and change. “At 90 years of age, Dr O’Donoghue is proud of her continuing and much cherished association with the Lowitja Institute and supports the Foundation’s aim of building the next generation of aspiring Aboriginal leaders.”

Open for applications this week, the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation Nursing Scholarships will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enrolled in a Diploma of Nursing to strive for excellence whilst in the pursuit of their aspirations.

The successful applicants will have the opportunity to create a prestigious pathway of their own as the inaugural scholarship recipient, whilst sharing in the legacy of Dr O’Donoghue’s pioneering career in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“We are very grateful for the donations received for the Foundation to date and look forward to receiving more support for this important initiative,” said Adjunct Professor Mohamed.

“I felt that, because I was the first Aboriginal nurse there, I always had to show that Aboriginal people are as good as everyone else.”

– Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue from Lowitja, the authorised biography by Stuart Rintoul

For information about the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation nursing scholarships,

Applications close at midnight 7 April 2023.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, please contact Jo Cackett on 0474 727506, or email

My auntie is Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue who was the first Aboriginal nurse trained at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Both she and my mum were absolute trailblazers – women who came from a very traumatic childhood but were determined to make a difference despite their difficult early life. Auntie Lowitja went to work in domestic service at the age of 16 with a family in Victor Harbor and was soon working as a nursing aide at the local hospital. She applied to complete her training at the RAH but, like her sister, was refused the opportunity because she was Aboriginal.

Lowitja fought the decision which eventually was overturned. She went on to work at the RAH for 10 years and became a charge sister.

In the 60s, Auntie Lowitja joined the state public service which was the start of a lifelong career fighting against discrimination of Aboriginal people. She was the inaugural Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) from 1990-1996.

In 1977, Lowitja was the first Australian woman to be awarded an AO, she was named Australian of the Year in 1984, an Australian National Living Treasure in 1998 and also received a CBE, an AC, and a DSG (Dame of the Order of St. Gregory, awarded by Pope John Paul II), as well as several honorary doctorates from universities around Australia. She is the Patron of Reconciliation SA, the Don Dunstan Foundation and The Lowitja Institute (named in her honour)

Lowitja was always a powerhouse leader with a very strong, determined personality. I think I have a little of both my aunty and my mum in me. Being able to move past their traumatic childhood, they showed me that anything and everything is possible, including forgiveness.

Auntie Lowitja is still one of the most influential and admired indigenous voices in this country. Although she is long retired from public life, she’s still in demand. Her achievements and work are enduring and an important part of our history.

Some content and images from SA Life.


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