The Adelaide Festival of Ideas for 2003 is dedicated to the life's work of Lowitja O'Donoghue. She wasn't meant to have a 'life's work' when the matron at Cole-brook Home told her as she left the institution half a century ago that she would 'never make anything of her life'. That was a brutal assessment of probability. People who start with Lowitja O'Donoghue's (lack of opportunities are not supposed to have a 'life's work'; they are supposed instead 'to become statistics'. And yet her contribution to Australian public life, especially in Aboriginal health and reconciliation, has been unparalleled.
Any list of her achievements is huge, but only part of the story. This Festival wishes particularly to honour the quality of Lowitja O'Donoghue's contribution to policy and debate, for her people and the nation as a whole. Throughout her public life she has struggled for justice and opportunity, she has fought to build healthy and stable communities, and she has confronted European Australians with the crimes done in their name. She is forceful when she needs to be, which has been often, but never divisive or (needlessly) aggressive. She speaks with quiet candour and leads with an unforced dignity that is an example to us all. She respects the humanity of all peoples in the way she acts and talks.
Listen to Lowitja's Opening Address