NAIDOC SA Patrons / Ambassadors 2020 – 2022

Uncle Lewis O’Brien

One of Adelaide’s most loved and respected Aboriginal Elders, researchers and educators, Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien, AO, has been recognised by the Australian Council for Educational Leaders for his enormous contribution to researching, maintaining and sharing Aboriginal knowledge.

Born at Point Pearce Mission, Uncle Lewis is a Kaurna man whose family originally lived in the northern-most reaches of Kaurna country, near the Clare District.

With knowledge passed down from his Elders and relatives, he has developed a brilliant capacity to bring together Aboriginal ways of knowing with western philosophy and share culture with all those he encounters.

He began working in schools in the late 1970s teaching children traditional Aboriginal knowledges and values, and since, over more than 30 years, has been a mentor for hundreds of Aboriginal children families and inmates.

His research and scholarly work including a commitment to keeping alive the Kaurna language and culture has been substantial.

He has been a driving force in re-inscribing a Kaurna presence into the Adelaide topographical and cultural landscape and bringing to light Aboriginal knowledge and protocols.

Aunty Roslyn Coleman

My name is Rosalind Coleman, I am a proud Kaurna & Narungga woman. I am happily married with five wonderful children and fifteen amazing, precious grandchildren. We live in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

My background is working in education. I now work within the family business full time alongside my husband, Basil. My greatest passion is to help & assist young people, family groups and community to reach their full potential. I have a leadership role within the Aboriginal Berean Community Church which is located in Cheltenham.

I am also a Life coach with NLP, however, my greatest passion is teaching discipleship training and supporting and encouraging young women within the Christian faith and Community.

I am currently the Deputy Chair on Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation as well as other Community Organisations.

Vale Aunty Josie Agius

Josie Agius (1934-2015) was a Narungga, Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri and Ngadjuri leader. A pillar of strength in the Aboriginal community, she was committed to sharing cultural knowledge with non-Aboriginal people.

In the 1970s, Agius became one of South Australia’s first Aboriginal health workers, and was part of a team that developed a cultural framework for how hospitals and community health services deliver services to Aboriginal peoples in the State.

She was inducted into the SA Women’s Honour Roll in 2009 and was patron of the 2014 and 2015 NAIDOC SA Awards. Agius was awarded the Premier’s NAIDOC Award in 2014 for improving the lives and welfare of Aboriginal peoples in South Australia.

In 2017 the City of Adelaide named Josie Agius Park/Wikaparntu Wirra (Park 22) to honour Josie Agius, a strong supporter of girl’s netball. Wikaparntu Wirra is a newly-constructed Kaurna word that translates to netball park.

Vale Aunty Alitja Rigney

From her early years growing up on the Point Pearce Aboriginal Mission in the 1940s, as a young woman demanding entry to teachers’ college, and later as an innovative school principal and administrator, Alice Rigney fought hard for greater opportunities in education all her life.

When her youngest child’s kindergarten lacked teachers, she stepped into the breach, an act that set her on a path to becoming a qualified teacher, Australia’s first female Aboriginal school principal and the first Aboriginal person to join the professional ranks of the South Australian Department of Education.

Along the way, she preached the power of education in transforming lives and changing destinies, in the process opening doors for others, including for her own children. She also made a major contribution to the preservation of Indigenous culture, introducing the teaching of the Kaurna language into the curriculum when she was principal at the Kaurna Plains School in Elizabeth.

Her first teaching appointment was at Taperoo Primary School, where she found her class was a ‘United Nations’ of students from all different backgrounds. She was ‘absolutely terrified’, wondering what the white parents would think of an Aboriginal person teaching their kids. But she had found her vocation. ‘I absolutely loved it. I loved teaching. I loved imparting knowledge into those little brains,’ she said.

After six years teaching, she joined the professional ranks of the South Australian Education Department. In 1983, when the nation’s first Indigenous school, Kaurna Plains School, was being set up at Elizabeth, Rigney played a major role in gaining community support and she became its principal in 1986, a position she held for the next 13 years.

An innovative and inspiring leader, she introduced the first Indigenous language curriculum. The Kaurna language had been ‘sleeping’, since the death of the last known native speaker in the 1920s. But the discovery of letters written by Kaurna children from an Adelaide mission to German missionaries in the 1840s, brought the language back to life.

Rigney decided that, since her school was on Kaurna land, that should be the language taught, although before teaching the students, she and the staff had to learn the language themselves. The students were also introduced to the idea of cultural as well as conventional school discipline. An Elder of the Kaurna and Narungga Aboriginal nations, Rigney taught more than 5000 Aboriginal students during her lifetime and mentored and inspired many more.

Rigney’s pioneering work was recognised by many awards during her lifetime, including a Public Service Medal in 1991 and the state’s NAIDOC Elder of the Year award in 1997. The following year, the University of South Australia awarded her an honorary doctorate for her services to Aboriginal education.

After teaching, she also took on a significant role in South Australia’s Guardianship Board and the Aboriginal Education, Training and Advisory Committee, while nationally she was ambassador for the Commonwealth government’s National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy strategy.

Her family also benefited from her huge educational legacy, with all three of her children involved in education.

Alice Rigney died suddenly in May 2017, aged 74, less than 24 hours after her husband Lester, and was buried at Point Pearce. Her death was widely mourned; at the University of South Australia, flags were flown at half-mast to honour her life.

Previous Ambassadors

Sharon Gollan 2015

Aunty Sharon is a respected Ngarrindjeri academic with over 30 years professional experience in community services. She is sought after for her Cultural Respect workshops that build respectful partnerships between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australians.

Frank Lampard OAM 2013, 2014, 2015

Frank is of Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna descent, was a primary school teacher for more than 30 years before holding several senior roles in the public service, including as the Acting Chief Executive of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Prisoners and Offenders Support Services Incorporated.

He has also served on several advisory and government bodies and is currently the Deputy Chair of the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander War Memorial Committee. Mr Lampard has received numerous awards and recognition, including an Order of Australia medal and the National NAIDOC Elder of the Year Award. He is passionate about retaining Aboriginal languages and culture in schools and the tertiary sector, and has demonstrated a strong commitment to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people in South Australia.

Professor Roger Thomas 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019

Roger Thomas is an Aboriginal man whose parents came from Pt Augusta and Ceduna and is from Wirungu / Kookatha clans of South Australia. Roger has over 23 years experience in the SA Public Service and since leaving there he has continued to work in the Aboriginal Higher Education Sector, including being Managing director of Puldamurra TAFE College in Western Australia. Roger is currently the Professor of Indigenous Engagement and Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of Adelaide and also the Director of the Centre of Australian Indigenous Research and Studies – Wilto Yerlo / CASM.
Roger is currently Chairperson of the Federal Governments Ministerial Advisory Council on Indigenous Higher Education and also a member of the World Indigenous Higher Education Committee whose agenda’s deal with Indigenous higher education on a global basis. Roger also holds the position of Dean – Wilto Yerlo, University of Adelaide.

Dr Alitya Rigney 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012

Aboriginal Elder Dr Alitya Rigney is a 30-year veteran of education in South Australia. Starting out as a teachers’ aide in 1967, Alitja retired as principal of Kaurna Plains School in 1997 with an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia and a string of awards and achievements to her name.
Alitya grew up in a mission on the Yorke Peninsula during the 1940s. Having completed high school, Alitja set about thinking what she might do for a career. Surprisingly, teaching hadn’t even occurred to her. “I wanted to be a doctor, but my school counsellor didn’t think an Aboriginal female would be able to achieve in that area at the time. I had role models who were nurses, though – people like Lowitja O’Donoghue and Audrey Kinnear. So I became a nurse.” After nursing for a while, Alitja returned to her community and had her first child. This is when she began working as a teachers’ aide in mission schools around the area. Realising she had what it took to be a teacher, Alitya obtained a Diploma of Education from the University of South Australia and was quickly snapped up by a mainstream primary school.

In 1985 Alitya became the first Aboriginal person to join the professional ranks of the South Australian Department of Education. The following year she became the first female Aboriginal principal in Australia when she was appointed head of Kaurna Plains School. Since then, Alitja has been teaching, mentoring and, most importantly, inspiring young minds on the traditional lands of her people, and beyond.

Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015
Known as Uncle Lewis to all – but particularly by our Indigenous communities of South Australia and Australia, Lewis is an esteemed Aboriginal Elder. He was born in Narannga country on Yorke Peninsula in 1930 and brought up at Point Pearce.
Lewis originally trained, and then worked as a Fitter and Machinist for thirty years – including some years seeing the world as a Ship’s Engineer. He became involved in many of the early political actions of our Aboriginal community – most particularly the Aboriginal Advancement League from the 1960’s onwards and our first Aboriginal Community Centre.
He continued to be involved in Aboriginal community interests, exerting influence on:
South Australian Heritage committees,the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, SA Jubilee 150 committees, The Aboriginal Council of South Australia and SA Aboriginal Sports and Recreation committees.
In 1977 he joined the South Australian Education Department as an Aboriginal Education Liaison Officer. From that time to today there is hardly a sector of Aboriginal Education and Training in this state that he has not been involved in developing.

David Rathman 2013, 2014, 2015

David Rathman was born and raised in the city of Port Augusta, South Australia. He attended Port Augusta West primary school, Port Augusta High School and graduated in 1985 from the College of Advanced Education as well as studying in Israel in 1985.

Mr Rathman has worked as a commercial radio announcer with 5AU, Program manager at the Herald and Weekly times, Riverland Radio station, Aboriginal Community Worker for the Department for Community Welfare at Berri and Gerard, Electoral liaison officer with the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Senior Aboriginal Community worker in the far north, West Coast and eastern areas of the State, Social planner to assist Department of Community Welfare, Officer in Charge for the Department of Technical and Further Education Aboriginal Program, Member of the Australia Government Committee, Chief executive of the Department of State Aboriginal Affairs overseeing and monitoring Government services to Aboriginal people and to operate services in heritage works, infrastructure, development and community relations and has sat on numerous boards and councils as executive director and advisory positions.

Mr. Rathman was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1993 and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management. On Australia Day, 26th January 2000 Mr Rathman was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), Receiving his medal for services to Aboriginal Affairs, particularly for the delivery of SA Government services in the areas of education and community welfare.

Aunty Stephanie Gollan 2013, 2014

Stephanie Gollan was born at the Point Mcleay Aboriginal Mission community southeast of Adelaide, now know as Raukkan. From this background Stephanie has learnt traditional and contemporary cultural techniques such as storytelling, personal cultural history, basket weaving and traditional net making from community elders. Further study was completed at Tauondi Community College formerly the Aboriginal community college located in Port Adelaide. Stephanie completed her cultural guide for tourism in 2000.
In 2006, Stephanie commenced as a casual gallery attendant at Tandanya National Cultural Institute in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD.

Christine Egan 2009, 2011 & 2012

Christine Egan is a Ngarrindjeri – Ramindjeri & Gurindji woman who has 28 years experience working in both State and Federal Government. A majority of her employment was in Western Australia in the areas of Aboriginal employment, equity and justice as Conciliator / Community Education officer with the WA Equal opportunity commission.
Christine also worked for the Office for Women as Project Officer before starting as Aboriginal Policy officer for Aboriginal Women’s Initiatives until her retirement in 2007.

Marj Tripp 2012
Uncle Brian Butler 2012
Pat Warrior Reid 2013