Story courtesy of Leading from the Edge: Aboriginal Leaders Tell Their Story

AlitjaDr Alice (Alitya) Rigney is a strong Aboriginal woman who is a retired school principal. Over many years, education has been a very important focus for her and this has been where she has seen many exciting changes.

Dr Rigney is a strong advocate for the rights of all people, but particularly Aboriginal groups, and believes that caring, sharing and coming together in a world which considers the rights and interests of all people is mandatory for a secure future, for a continued peaceful co-existence among all.

I wanted to be a doctor, a medical doctor. I’m a Doctor of Education now, but back then my ambition was Medicine. However I was counselled that because I was a black female I couldn’t become a doctor.

Sometimes you have to go to difficult places and you have to know whether or not you have the stamina and the strength and support to cope in that particular setting. Throughout my journey I’ve had this in mind and I’ve had a good grounding in strength and stability, and the good advice that people have given me. I believe that if you go out into unfamiliar territory you have to consider whether or not you are going to be successful in it. How are you going to cope? What support systems will you have? You have to think about these things if you are going to achieve your goals.

Dr Rigney’s achievements include:

  • Early 1960s – first in a group of Aboriginal people to work for the Education Department
  • 1985 – first Aboriginal person to join the administration ranks in the Education Department in SA
  • 1986 – first Aboriginal female principal in SA
  • 1991 – Australia Day Honours Public Service Medal
  • 1998 – received Doctorate from University of SA
  • 2000 – Ambassador for Dare to Lead and the Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations (DEEWR)


Dr Rigney is also the mother of Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney, Professor of Education at the University of South Australia.
Cover of book - Leading from the Edge


Comments are closed.