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Lowitja: The Authorised Biography of Lowitja O'Donoghue

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'I am sometimes identified as one of the "success stories" of the policies of removal of Aboriginal children. But for much of my childhood I was deeply unhappy. I feel I had been deprived of love and the ability to love in return. Like Lily, my mother, I felt totally powerless. And I think this is where the seeds of my commitment to human rights and social justice were sow 'I am sometimes identified as one of the "success stories" of the policies of removal of Aboriginal children. But for much of my childhood I was deeply unhappy. I feel I had been deprived of love and the ability to love in return. Like Lily, my mother, I felt totally powerless. And I think this is where the seeds of my commitment to human rights and social justice were sown.' Lowitja O'Donoghue Lowitja O'Donoghue is a truly great Australian. She is a former Australian of the Year and was the inaugural chair ATSIC. She has represented Australia's Indigenous people at UN forums in Geneva and New York and had Australia become voted to become a republic she would have been a contender to become Australia's first president. This long-awaited authorized biography of arguably the most recognized Indigenous woman in Australia is compellingly written by journalist Stuart Rintoul with Lowitja's full cooperation. In 2001 a bitter controversy arose over whether Lowitja had been 'stolen' as a child. There has never been any doubt that she had been handed over to missionaries at the United Aborigines Mission in Oodnadatta and was thereafter completely cut off from her mother and her culture, but the circumstances of her arrival at the mission were not precisely known. Stuart Rintoul, who was then a journalist at The Australian, accompanied Lowitja back to Central Australia to search for answers. This biography completes the journey into Lowitja's life and the challenging history of her times.


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'I am sometimes identified as one of the "success stories" of the policies of removal of Aboriginal children. But for much of my childhood I was deeply unhappy. I feel I had been deprived of love and the ability to love in return. Like Lily, my mother, I felt totally powerless. And I think this is where the seeds of my commitment to human rights and social justice were sow 'I am sometimes identified as one of the "success stories" of the policies of removal of Aboriginal children. But for much of my childhood I was deeply unhappy. I feel I had been deprived of love and the ability to love in return. Like Lily, my mother, I felt totally powerless. And I think this is where the seeds of my commitment to human rights and social justice were sown.' Lowitja O'Donoghue Lowitja O'Donoghue is a truly great Australian. She is a former Australian of the Year and was the inaugural chair ATSIC. She has represented Australia's Indigenous people at UN forums in Geneva and New York and had Australia become voted to become a republic she would have been a contender to become Australia's first president. This long-awaited authorized biography of arguably the most recognized Indigenous woman in Australia is compellingly written by journalist Stuart Rintoul with Lowitja's full cooperation. In 2001 a bitter controversy arose over whether Lowitja had been 'stolen' as a child. There has never been any doubt that she had been handed over to missionaries at the United Aborigines Mission in Oodnadatta and was thereafter completely cut off from her mother and her culture, but the circumstances of her arrival at the mission were not precisely known. Stuart Rintoul, who was then a journalist at The Australian, accompanied Lowitja back to Central Australia to search for answers. This biography completes the journey into Lowitja's life and the challenging history of her times.

53 review for Lowitja: The Authorised Biography of Lowitja O'Donoghue

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    Reading journalist Stuart Rintoul's detailed biography of Lowitja (Lois) O'Donoghue was a journey through the life of this highly respected Aboriginal leader as much as it was a meticulously recounted history of Aboriginal affairs in modern Australia: from the years of the "Stolen Generation" through to the negotiations for recognition, compensation, and reconciliation between government and Aboriginal organisations. It presented a stark portrait of the division between Australia's populations, Reading journalist Stuart Rintoul's detailed biography of Lowitja (Lois) O'Donoghue was a journey through the life of this highly respected Aboriginal leader as much as it was a meticulously recounted history of Aboriginal affairs in modern Australia: from the years of the "Stolen Generation" through to the negotiations for recognition, compensation, and reconciliation between government and Aboriginal organisations. It presented a stark portrait of the division between Australia's populations, black and white, and of the tireless efforts of those who worked to bridge the gaps as well as those who vigorously opposed any recognition of Australia's racist past as an attempted genocide. Despite, or perhaps because of her "removal" from her Aboriginal mother and abandonment by her white father as a two-year old, O'Donoghue eventually dedicated her life to a "commitment to human rights and social justice", pledging from her initial efforts to be accepted for training as a practitioner nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital to be the "best" she could and to break through the discrimination that had followed her from her days at the Colebrook Home for Half-Caste Children. She admitted that her childhood had left her "unloved" and ignorant of how to love others, a sadness that permeated her entire life, despite the tributes and recognition that she received. Rintoul's book is such an important addition to our understanding of the workings of the Aboriginal agencies, of the disagreements between the leaders themselves, and of the dedication of black and white politicians to push the agendas that would contribute to better lives for all Australians. Perhaps the most startling revelations were the words and actions of former Prime Minister John Howard as he opposed any acknowledgement of Australia's past injustices and, moreso, what he saw as a skewed attempt to "overcompensate" Aboriginal claims for compensation in areas of health, education, and land rights. Although I was aware of his overall opposition to any apology by the government, Rintoul's detailed presentation of the mounting fury of his refusal to acknowledge our past was more repugnant when chronologically detailed as it was. I learned so much from reading this biography. One cannot overestimate the contribution O'Donoghue made to her people and to Australia, as a whole, in each of her appointments within the public service and governmental landscape, even taking the struggle for recognition of Indigenous Australians to highly respected international forums.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘I’ll show you.’ In September 1934, two-year-old Lowitja O’Donoghue was taken by her white father Tom O’Donoghue from her ‘full-blood’ Pitjantjatjara mother, Lily, and deposited in the Colebrook ‘half-caste’ mission. In 1945, Lily travelled hundreds of kilometres from Oodnadatta to Port Augusta where she thought that she might find her five removed children. They were not there. The Colebrook home moved, over time, from central Australia to the outskirts of Adelaide. Each move took the children fu ‘I’ll show you.’ In September 1934, two-year-old Lowitja O’Donoghue was taken by her white father Tom O’Donoghue from her ‘full-blood’ Pitjantjatjara mother, Lily, and deposited in the Colebrook ‘half-caste’ mission. In 1945, Lily travelled hundreds of kilometres from Oodnadatta to Port Augusta where she thought that she might find her five removed children. They were not there. The Colebrook home moved, over time, from central Australia to the outskirts of Adelaide. Each move took the children further away from their communities. Family ties were destroyed as the mission set out to turn ‘savages’ into Christians. Lowitja (then called Lois) was told, as she left the mission to take up a position as a domestic servant on a sheep station, that she soon be pregnant and amount to nothing. Well, she certainly proved that statement be wrong! In this thoughtful biography, Mr Rintoul takes us through Ms O’Donoghue’s life. Despite initial opposition, Ms O’Donoghue trained as a nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and in 1959 she became South Australia’s first Aboriginal nursing sister. She then spent some time in India but returned to Australia and became involved in Aboriginal politics leading up to the 1967 referendum. She joined the public service and rose through the ranks. In 1989, she was chosen to the Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. And in that role, she was one of the key players in the negotiations that shaped the Keating government’s native title legislation after the High Court’s Mabo decision in 1992. What comes across in this moving account of a life well lived, is Ms Donoghue’s commitment to Aboriginal people. An articulate, compassionate woman who faced opposition from those who wanted more radical change more quickly as well as those who resisted any change at all. A woman who knew the history of her people, who had directly experienced dispossession. A woman who, when she met her mother Lily, had no shared language. And then, in 2001, there was a controversy about whether Ms O’Donoghue was a ‘stolen child’. I mention this distressing controversy only because it was a truly despicable example of a journalistic ‘beat-up’. In this biography, Mr Rintoul traces the story of a remarkable woman, a great Australian and an inspirational role model. But, as Ms O’Donoghue says: 'I am sometimes identified as one of the "success stories" of the policies of removal of Aboriginal children. But for much of my childhood I was deeply unhappy. I feel I had been deprived of love and the ability to love in return. Like Lily, my mother, I felt totally powerless. And I think this is where the seeds of my commitment to human rights and social justice were sown.' Strongly recommended. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    It was Bismarck who said that 'politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best'.  Well, the two women I most admire in Australian politics are exponents of that art: Penny Wong, who, as I read in Margaret Simons' recent biography Penny Wong, Passion and Principle, says that you can't achieve change unless you're 'in the room', even if that means that sometimes you have to settle for less;  and Lowitja O'Donoghue, whose steely determination to represent Indigenous p It was Bismarck who said that 'politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best'.  Well, the two women I most admire in Australian politics are exponents of that art: Penny Wong, who, as I read in Margaret Simons' recent biography Penny Wong, Passion and Principle, says that you can't achieve change unless you're 'in the room', even if that means that sometimes you have to settle for less;  and Lowitja O'Donoghue, whose steely determination to represent Indigenous people changed Australia for the better, even though there is still much more to be done. Stuart Rintoul's biography traces the story of this remarkable woman's life, tracked alongside significant events in Australia's Black History, rendering the biography also a refresher course for those who lived through these events and an education for younger readers who did not.  The book begins in 1979 with the desert burial of Lowitja's mother Lily, who was Anangu, a Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara woman.  Lowitja barely knew her, because in 1934 at the age of two, she and her sisters and brother were taken to a mission at Oodnadatta by her white father Tom O'Donoghue, who subsequently left the area and married a white woman. Rintoul spends 29 pages on this man, but fails to shed light on what kind of father could do such a thing.  Ultimately, he seems wholly irrelevant. Lowitja has no memory of him at all. So Lowitja grew up separated from her family, her culture and her language, and when she was finally reunited with her mother thirty years later, they could not communicate. They stood mute in front of each other, not able to speak the same language, Lowitja's mind full of questions that would never be asked because she could see the pain sweep across her mother's face, and decided there and then to cause her no more suffering. (p.4) By the time they met, in an awkward reunion where the gulf was wide, Lowitja had become a fully qualified and respected nurse and an activist.  At sixteen, she had left the loveless Colebrook Home, not allowed to continue her education but dispatched instead to domestic service as a nanny to the Swincer family.  However, it was when she was attending church that there was a life-changing moment: Lowitja's potential became a topic of conversation between Joyce Swincer, a nurse before she married, and Alice Tuck, who says to Lowitja one day after church, 'You want to be a nurse, I hear.' 'Yes, I do,' Lowitja replies. 'You can start now,' Tuck says, and changes the course of her life.' (p.85) It wasn't that simple of course, and there were hurdles to overcome.  When she went to withdraw her wages held in trust at the United Aborigines Mission office, where she had £40 to buy new black shoes and stockings, she was told she couldn't have it.  She had to wait until she was 21, they said, and in the meantime a preacher would escort her to the shops to buy what she needed.  At sixteen she stood on her dignity and refused to submit to that. To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2020/09/22/l...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Although I knew much of the story of the stolen generations and attempts to improve the situation of Aboriginal people in Australia, I knew little of Lowitja’s personal story. This book provides a comprehensive overview of attempts to improve Aboriginal people’s lives, especially through political and legislative changes. ATSIC, MABO, Native Title Act, the apology to the Stolen Generations are all covered in great detail, sometimes too much detail. Lowitja's story is woven through all these even Although I knew much of the story of the stolen generations and attempts to improve the situation of Aboriginal people in Australia, I knew little of Lowitja’s personal story. This book provides a comprehensive overview of attempts to improve Aboriginal people’s lives, especially through political and legislative changes. ATSIC, MABO, Native Title Act, the apology to the Stolen Generations are all covered in great detail, sometimes too much detail. Lowitja's story is woven through all these events but sometimes her own voice is lost in the legislative and political detail. Her personal story is sad but inspiring and her commitment to Aboriginal people unwavering. She faced opposition from those who wanted more radical change as well as those who resisted any change at all. Despite reading over 300 pages I still wonder how that sad little girl, removed from her mother aged 2 to be raised by missionaries, became such a figurehead in Australian politics. Perhaps the reason was her willingness to hear other points of view and her dogged persistence in complex negotiations.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marj

    At the age of two, Lowitja born to a white father and aboriginal mother is taken to a missionary with two of her siblings and placed in care. Despite racial discrimination and prejudice Lowitja trains as a nurse prior to becoming a powerful advocate for aboriginal people and their rights. This felt like two books to me. First there was Lowitja's voice and narrative which is what I wanted to hear. Her story is compelling, sad and inspiring. But her voice is lost in all the legislative detail and p At the age of two, Lowitja born to a white father and aboriginal mother is taken to a missionary with two of her siblings and placed in care. Despite racial discrimination and prejudice Lowitja trains as a nurse prior to becoming a powerful advocate for aboriginal people and their rights. This felt like two books to me. First there was Lowitja's voice and narrative which is what I wanted to hear. Her story is compelling, sad and inspiring. But her voice is lost in all the legislative detail and politics occurring at the time. I wanted a human story not a discourse on legislative bodies. Tried skim reading but finally gave up p.200.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carmel

    I highly recommend this biography for anyone wanting to be inspired by the life of an exceptional woman - against all odds Lowitja O’Donoghue has spent her life working for justice for Indigenous Australians. She has done so with grace and optimism and is respected by those on all side of the political spectrum. I learnt a lot about our history while reading this book and hope that as a nation we can start moving towards acknowledging the horrors of colonialism and do something about the ongoing I highly recommend this biography for anyone wanting to be inspired by the life of an exceptional woman - against all odds Lowitja O’Donoghue has spent her life working for justice for Indigenous Australians. She has done so with grace and optimism and is respected by those on all side of the political spectrum. I learnt a lot about our history while reading this book and hope that as a nation we can start moving towards acknowledging the horrors of colonialism and do something about the ongoing injustices suffered by Aboriginal Australians.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    ebook. The first part is especially engaging and well written before it gets stuck in organisations, events, dates. I like the way the writer includes parallel events across the world.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie Heyer

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hanako

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lachlan Cibich

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Teresa Savage

  14. 5 out of 5

    Celia Karpfen

  15. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carol Gaston

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marita Supplee

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Lonergan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angelina Smith

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Hall

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tania

  22. 5 out of 5

    Klara

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sayontonee

  26. 5 out of 5

    Blackwood Reconcilation Group

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Issy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  30. 5 out of 5

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  31. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  32. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

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    Lidia Vicca

  34. 5 out of 5

    Margot

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    Lucy Johnson

  36. 5 out of 5

    Eugenia

  37. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Klein

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    Torey Predmore

  39. 5 out of 5

    Julianna Peres

  40. 4 out of 5

    BHP

  41. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

  42. 4 out of 5

    Casey

  43. 4 out of 5

    Jane Maloy

  44. 5 out of 5

    Sadie Snow

  45. 4 out of 5

    FairyDuff

  46. 5 out of 5

    Kate Cubitt

  47. 5 out of 5

    Ash

  48. 4 out of 5

    Kimberlee

  49. 4 out of 5

    A

  50. 4 out of 5

    Daniela

  51. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

  52. 4 out of 5

    María Orro

  53. 4 out of 5

    Bravya

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