March 13, 2024, 12pm

3 minutes of reading


Yoorrook celebrates International Women’s Day by remembering important advocates for First People

We stand on the shoulders of generations of amazing women. Learn more about some of them this International Womens Day.

There are so many women who haven’t been in the spotlight. They worked in their towns, on committees, in government. These women wanted to make change to better our people. So many women haven’t been seen. Many are in our stories now, in what Yoorrook is hearing. It’s so important for their relatives and ancestors to see their stories on the public record.

Professor Eleanor Bourke AM, Chair of the Yoorrook Justice Commission

Read about some of the women who have inspired Chair Bourke:

Lowitja O'Donoghue portrait

Lowitja O’Donoghue

Lowitja was a wonderful leader in a time when women weren’t so visible at the highest level. She used her time in public service for the betterment of our people.”

– Professor Eleanor Bourke

Merle Jackomos OAM

Yorta Yorta Elder Aunty Merle was an avid community worker and First Peoples activist. As a member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines & Torres Strait Islanders she promoted community understanding during the 1967 referendum. She served on countless committees and organisations, including as the president of the AAL.

Elizabeth Maud Morgan-Hoffman

Aunty Elizabeth, a Yorta Yorta Elder and recipient of the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award, prioritised the welfare of women and children throughout her life. She was the chair of AAL, inaugural chair of VACCA and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and co-founded organisations including the Aboriginal Housing Cooperative.

Margaret Elizabeth Tucker MBE

Aunty Marg was a Wiradjuri and Yulupna woman and one of Australia’s first and most noted activists. She was the first woman appointed to the Victorian Aborigines Welfare Board and became treasurer of the AAL. She played a vital role in establishing the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and was a patron of VACCA. In 1968 she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Lady Gladys Nicholls

A Yorta Yorta woman and leading First Peoples and women’s rights activist, Lady Gladys was well known for opening a hostel where First Peoples girls from the country could stay safely while seeking work in Melbourne. She co-founded the Women’s Auxiliary AAL and was a founding member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s council. She served alongside her husband Sir Doug Nicholls when he was made Governor of SA.

“These days there are people like Jill Gallagher, Muriel Bamblett, Geraldine Atkinson, who was the first Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. The co-chair arrangement is important. It makes sure women are included on an equal level.”

– Professor Eleanor Bourke AM

This International Women’s Day, we thanks and celebrate these women and the countless others who have created change for First Peoples in Victoria.

it is time to tell your truth

Make a submission to the Yoorrook Justice Commission