May Lorna O'Brien

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May Lorna O'Brien BEM (born 20 May 1932) is an Australian educator and author.

Born in Laverton, Western Australia, at the age of five she was removed to the Mount Margaret Aboriginal Mission. In 1953, she received her Teacher's Certificate at Claremont Teachers College. She was the first known Aboriginal woman in Western Australia to graduate from a tertiary institution.[1] After teaching for 25 years she moved into education policy, working for the Western Australian Ministry of Education and the Aboriginal Education Branch.

She was awarded the British Empire Medal on 31 December 1977 for work in Aboriginal education. For this she was also awarded the John Curtin Medal. She was a delegate for Australia at the United Nations Conference on Women in Denmark in 1980.

Her publications include:

  • Education for Aborigines (co-author), Aboriginal Consultative Group to the Australian Schools Commission, 1976[1]
  • Aboriginal Access to and use of Technical and Further Education, 1976[1]
  • The Badudu series of children's books[2]
  • The Bawoo series of traditional teaching stories in bi-lingual text[2]


  1. ^ a b c Lofthouse, Andrea (1982). Who's Who of Australian Women. Methuen Australia Pty Ltd. ISBN 0454004370. 
  2. ^ a b "Authors: May O'Brien". 


  • Byrski, Liz. May O'Brien: 'Heart and soul', in Speaking Out: Australian women talk about success, Frenchs Forest: New South Wales, 1999, pp. 215–227
  • Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia: Some Aboriginal Women Pathfinders, WCTU:1980

External links[edit]