The fourth History Salon featured Aunty Lois Peeler, in conversation with Blak Betty.


Lois’ childhood was spent on orchards in Shepparton East and Orrvale districts of the Goulburn Valley after her family moved from the Cummeragunja Aboriginal Reserve near Barmah. These experiences have shaped the lives of Lois’ family who have been very active in Aboriginal community development. Lois’ mother Mrs Geraldine Briggs AO was awarded for her work in this field. Lois’ sister the late Hyllus Maris was a visionary and writer who wrote Women of the Sun and established Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville.


Lois has had a varied career which includes being the first Aboriginal model and the first Aboriginal person to work in television when she was engaged to work on the GTV 9 Breakfast Session in the ‘60s. Lois and her sisters formed a singing group the Sapphires which toured Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War. Lois’ nephew Aboriginal playwright Tony Briggs wrote about these experiences in the smash hit The Sapphires which as a stage play completed sell-out seasons in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth before going on to be a to take 11 of 12 awards at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award (AACTA).


Lois began her career in the community sector as Assistant Director of the Aborigines Advancement League leading to senior positions in the State and Federal public service (spanning 16 years in public sector Aboriginal Affairs). Lois is author of Aboriginal Oral History of the Flats and co-author of Yorta Yorta Language Heritage. She headed Aboriginal Tourism Australia for more than a decade leading Indigenous tourism development and co-authoring the ‘Respecting our Culture’ tourism accreditation program for the Australian Tourism industry.


In 2003 Lois received The Centenary Medal for her work in tourism. In 2014 she was made a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for her significant service to the Indigenous community as an educator, advocate and role model.


Lois is currently Chairperson of the Department of Justice and Regulation, Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (Eastern), a member of the government Community Assembly and statewide Aboriginal Justice Forum, Chairperson of the Eastern Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group. She was appointed to a temporary position of Acting Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People. She has a leadership role in Indigenous education and is involved in the implementation of the Department of Education and Training’s Marrung Aboriginal Education Action Plan.


As Principal of Worawa Aboriginal College, Lois oversees implementation of a holistic education for young Aboriginal women, nurturing Aboriginal culture, history and identity in an education framework – empowering Aboriginal girls and young women to ‘Walk in Both Worlds’.


She was named the 2017 Senior Victorian Australian of the Year and in May 2017, was conferred an Honorary Doctorate (Social Science) by RMIT University.


Aunty Lois will be talking about pivotal moments in her career, including her time with The Sapphires and working as a model, as well as the role of culture in education. Hosted by Blak Betty.


Where: Bombini Buzz Bar Mezzanine at Arts Centre Melbourne, Southbank Promenade, Melbourne
Wednesday 25 July, 6-7pm
How Much: Free. BOOKED OUT.


Lois Peeler on the Dreaming Trail at Worawa, Barak Lane, Healesville. Feb 2014

Image: Lois Peeler on the Dreaming Trail at Worawa, Barak Lane, Healesville. Feb 2014.