Story courtesy of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF). Indigenous Literacy Foundation logo

Amy Levai (nee O’Donoghue) was the first Aboriginal teacher to be trained and permitted to teach in South Australia.

Amy completed her Early Childhood Certificate for kindergarten in 1950 and then spent three years as the Kindergarten Director at Mt Margaret Mission in Western Australia.

Amy Levai in a classroom
Aunty Amy Levai with her pupils

In 1950, Amy applied to attend the Adelaide Teachers College, but was rejected.  She was told “we do not have Aboriginal people in teacher training”.

That knock back and the subsequent ones to come, made Amy more determined and she continued to “pester” the South Australian Education Department until she was finally accepted in 1957.

Amy taught in many schools around South Australia including Parkside Primary School, Williamstown Primary School, Eden Hills Primary School, Kaurna Plains Aboriginal School, and her beloved North Adelaide Primary School where she taught for 14 years.

Amy was a much loved and admired teacher for her gentle and warm approach to educating children. There are literally thousands of children who were lucky enough to have been taught by Amy, they have never forgotten her and they never will. Former SA Premier Dean Brown, singer Sia (Furler) and model Emma Balfour are amongst some of Amy’s former students.

In honour of Amy Levai the SA Department for Education and Child Development awards ten annual scholarships to carry Amy’s name as the Amy Levai Aboriginal Teaching Scholarships. There is also a memorial fund in her honour on the ILF website.


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