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Australian activist Lowitja O'Donoghue passes away at 91

Canberra: One of the most well-liked and significant Aboriginal activists in Australian history, Lowitja O'Donoghue, passed away at the age of 91, CNN reported on Monday.

O'Donoghue devoted her life to campaigning for the rights and health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

She passed away in Adelaide on Sunday, accompanied by her family.

As a result of her groundbreaking campaigning, she was bestowed with many honours, one of them being the distinction of being the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the Order of Australia in 1976, reported CNN.

Australian of the Year in 1984, Australian National Living Treasure in 1998, and numerous additional honours were among the other titles which were won by her.

While she was away from home, Pope John Paul II gave her a papal honour and made her a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

O'Donoghue was born in 1932 in the isolated Aboriginal hamlet of Indulkana, South Australia, the fifth of six children of a Yankunytjatjara mother and an Irish father she never met. Like thousands of other mixed-race children at the time, she and two of her sisters were taken from their family when they were just 2 years old and placed in the care of missionaries, according to CNN.

O'Donoghue's challenging upbringing did not, however, prevent her from establishing a successful career for herself.

In spite of facing a lot of bigotry along the road, she became the first Australian aboriginal person to complete nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1954 and went on to become a charge sister. She left the industry after a number of years to work in public service, according to CNN.

She led many indigenous organisations at the state and federal levels and was the first Aboriginal person to address the UN General Assembly in 1992.

She had successfully campaigned for the acknowledgment of Aboriginal peoples in a 1967 referendum.

O'Donoghue was referred to as "one of the most remarkable leaders this country has ever known" by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

In a post on X, Albanese, as he paid a tribute to O'Donoghue, said: "Dr O'Donoghue had an abiding faith in the possibility of a more united and reconciled Australia."

"It was a faith she embodied with her own unceasing efforts to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to bring about meaningful and lasting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia," he added. 

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