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Lowitja O’Donoghue

In their own words

Recorded 2015

Lowitja O’Donoghue
Audio: 2 minutes

I’d never heard of Robert and I’m not sure that he knew much about me either. But I quickly got to know him and respect him, and I knew that by the questioning and so on that he was really trying to find out more about me. So, I’m not sure that he knew much about [the] Stolen Generation. After I saw the portrait come out, I myself felt the portrait wasn’t like me because Robert had told me very early in the piece that I wasn’t to smile. He doesn’t like smiling portraits. People who know me of course know that I do smile a lot.

The suit that I wore on the day, I think he was a bit surprised because it was really quite formal and it’s a suit that I wear when I receive the many awards that I’ve received over the years. My family had no difficulty at all seeing me turn up in that same suit. And because it was a portrait, I thought, well, you know, I’m an Aboriginal woman and I’m going to wear the Aboriginal flag, and I’m going to wear everything red, black and yellow.

I’m much more proud of the fact that I’m a nurse and that I was able to use my nursing experience to actually travel to remote areas in my own, well in my own right, just doing what I could to heal people. I didn’t know my people very well and so on, this is one way of getting to know them out on the APY lands. I have had a lot of senior jobs, met just so many people in high places, really. And I enjoyed seeing them but they weren’t the most important things in my life. It was really about making a difference.

Acknowledgements

This recording was made during interviews for the National Portrait Gallery's Portrait Stories series.

Related information

Lowitja O'Donoghue and Robert Hannaford

'I'm going to wear everything red, black, and yellow'

Portrait story

Lowitja O'Donoghue discusses her life and portrait by Robert Hannaford.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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