19 October 2021

Uncle Lewis Yarlupurka O’Brien AO

The University of South Australia’s Law Building, at its City West Campus, is to be renamed the Lewis O’Brien Building, in honour of the highly respected Kaurna Elder and leader.

Uncle Lewis Yarlupurka O’Brien AO is an educator, philosopher, historian, advisor, counsellor, writer, and speaker of the Kaurna language.

An Adjunct Professor and Fellow of the University, Uncle Lewis is the recipient of numerous awards – including the 1977 Aboriginal Elder of the Year, the 2009 National Committee of Human Rights Citizen of Humanity award, and an Order of Australia Medal.

The Lewis O’Brien Building will be the future home of UniSA’s Aboriginal Knowledges Centre, a community gathering space to foster cultural connections and knowledge sharing.

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says the renaming will honour Uncle Lewis’ legacy as a leading Kaurna thinker, philosopher and educator, and acknowledging his contribution to UniSA.

“Uncle Lewis’ commitment and service to community have been unwavering,” Prof Lloyd says.

“He has worked tirelessly to create opportunity for Aboriginal Peoples over many decades and he has made a significant contribution to teaching and research at UniSA, promoting Aboriginal language and culture.”

Uncle Lewis was a key consultant in integrating Aboriginal knowledge into science and engineering programs, which was an Australian first.

He was a chief investigator on an Australian Research Council grant investigating the relationship between Aboriginal Knowledge and the environment, which was one of the first research projects of this kind to be developed and acknowledged by the ARC.

Uncle Lewis is a member of UniSA’s Purkarninthi (Elders) in Residence group, which supports Aboriginal learning across the University.

UniSA Pro Vice Chancellor: Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy Professor Irene Watson says Uncle Lewis has made a substantial commitment to keeping Kaurna language and ways of knowing alive.

“Uncle Lewis has been a driving force in Aboriginal education and has always talked up positive examples of Aboriginal ways of learning and the genius of all First Nations,” Prof Watson says.

“He is always approachable to have a yarn, whether it is with students or staff, he gives of his time generously in a good spirit and always with a sense of humour.”

The Lewis O’Brien Building initiative has been advanced as part of UniSA’s 30th anniversary.


Contact for interview:
Media contact: Bronwyn Hurrell - -0427 393 656 – bronwyn.hurrell@unisa.edu.au

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