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Dr Lois Peeler AM

Worked tirelessly to improve conditions for Aboriginal people through Aboriginal affairs, advocacy, social justice and education. 


Passion for advancing Victorian Aboriginal history, culture and affairs.

Aunty Lois Peeler grew up on Yorta Yorta Country, with ancestral homelands on both sides of Dhungala (Murray River), encompassing the ancient Barmah Forest and the Cummeragunja Aboriginal Reserve. She has ancestral connections to Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri through her mother and Wurundjeri through her father. Her grandfather was born on Coranderrk and grew up in the Coranderrk children’s dormitory. Her family took part in the epic Cummeragunja Walk-off in 1939 and moved to the Goulburn River Flats in Mooroopna Shepparton, Victoria.

Aunty Lois is one of 9 siblings and has followed in her family’s footsteps of involvement in Aboriginal affairs and advocacy to improve conditions for Aboriginal people. Her mother, Aunty Geraldine Briggs AO, was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2011 and her sister, Aunty Hyllus Maris, was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2013.  

Aunty Lois has had an extensive public career beginning with being a child member of the Harold Blair Aboriginal Choir that performed at the opening of GTV9. She later worked on the GTV9 Morning Breakfast Show with veteran announcer Hal Todd. She became the first Aboriginal model in Australia and toured the country with the Australian Wool Bureau’s ‘Gold Medal Garments’ in 1961. She was featured in the Australian Women’s Weekly’s ‘Teenage Weekly’ at 17 and later toured South-East Asia, entertaining the troops at the height of the Vietnam War. This story became the subject of the hit play and internationally acclaimed movie The Sapphires

In the 1980s, Aunty Lois worked closely with her late sister Hyllus Maris in the establishment of Australia's first Aboriginal school, Worawa Aboriginal College. The school officially opened in 1983 on leased premises in Frankston before moving to its current site in Healesville in 1985.

Aunty Lois worked in the Victorian Public Service, where she led the Aboriginal Employment Unit within the Public Service Board. She later served 3 terms as elected Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission’s Binjirru Regional Council. She held the position of Chair of Aboriginal Tourism Australia and in 2010 was appointed to the position of Principal/Executive Director of Worawa Aboriginal College.   

At the wishes of Elders, Aunty Lois led the development of the Worawa Dreaming Trail to convey aspects of Victorian Aboriginal culture and history. Later, she led the development of the Aboriginal History Walk to honour Aboriginal change makers. From this initiative, in collaboration with the Parliament of Victoria, Aunty Lois created an education resource for Victorian schools.  

Aunty Lois is the author of the Aboriginal Oral History of the Flats of Mooroopna and directed the production of The Flats documentary in 2014. She also co-authored the publication of Yorta Yorta Language Heritage (1997).   

In June 2014, Aunty Lois was made a Member (AM) of the General Division of the Order of Australia. The award was made for her ‘significant service to the Indigenous community as an educator, advocate and role model.’ In 2017, she was Senior Victorian of the Year. In the same year, she was also awarded a Doctorate of Social Science honoris causa by RMIT University. In 2020, she was inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll and in 2022 was NAIDOC Female Elder of the Year. In 2023, Aunty Lois was also awarded a Doctorate of Education honoris causa by Latrobe University.   

Upon retirement from the role of Worawa Principal in 2023, Aunty Lois assumed the role of Elder in Residence at Worawa where she supports students to nurture their pride in Aboriginal identity as a key factor in fostering their social and emotional wellbeing.   

In line with her strongly held value of self-determination, Aunty Lois is a contributor to Aboriginal community-controlled initiatives. She was a member of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee of Melbourne Museum and, for over a decade, Chair of the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (RAJAC). She was also a member of the state-wide Aboriginal Justice Forum and Chair of the Aboriginal Independent Prison Visitors Advisory Committee.

In 2021, Aunty Lois embarked on creating Lotjpadhan, a restorative justice project for connecting and healing Aboriginal youth and families. Funded by the Koorie Justice Unit of the Department of Justice and Community Safety and the Victorian Legal Services Board, Lotjpadhan is the first Aboriginal-led family group conferencing model in Victoria.

Aunty Lois was raised among resilient individuals who championed the battle for equal rights for Aboriginal people in education, healthcare, housing, legal services and social justice. She persists in this endeavour today through her ongoing advocacy work.

Aunty Lois’s ongoing achievements highlight her knowledge and passion for advancing Victorian Aboriginal history, culture and affairs.