“Teaching has been my life, it has been the thing that I loved doing the most. To be able to give to children and help them to learn, grow and move forward is a very special opportunity” ~ Amy Levai, November 2012 in response to the then Minister for Education and Child Development in South Australia, Grace Portolesi, when she announced that the SA Department for Education and Child Development would award ten annual scholarships to carry Amy’s name as the Amy Levai Aboriginal Teaching Scholarships, to assist the recipients as they embark on the new Pathways into Teaching program. The scholarships provide financial assistance and a pathway to employment for Aboriginal people studying to become teachers. Amy was congratulated for her 35 years of service teaching in South Australian primary schools and for her professionalism, dedication and inspirational teaching practices.
Family honours Aunty Amy Levai’s wonderful life with memorial fund
Auntie Amy Levai (nee O’Donoghue) passed away peacefully in Adelaide on Good Friday, March 29 2013 after an 18 month battle with bowel cancer.
Her legacy will always remain for as long as children everywhere are given the opportunity to learn to read and write and are encouraged to be the best that they can be.
Auntie Amy was a loved and devoted mother and mother-in-law of Deborah, Paul and Annika, Kristine and Les, Robert and Nina, Stephen, adored Grandma of Ruby, Mahailia and Bianca, Jacob and Brianna, Dean and Kate, Trisha and Tim Jordan and Terri, great grandma of Lachlan and Hollee, loving sister of Eileen, Violet and Geoffrey (deceased) and of Lowitja. Daughter of Lily and Thomas (deceased) and cherished friend of Tony.
Auntie Amy is now reunited in memory with Matyas (deceased) from whom she had been divorced for over 20 years but still they remained good friends.
As we collectively mourn the loss of another respected Elder we can be encouraged and humbled by her ongoing legacy and story being carried forward by the actions of her daughter, Deb Edwards.
Paying tribute to a loved one is a special way to keep our memories alive and to carry on the important legacies that many of our Elders have fought constantly to achieve, paving the way for the important work that is still needed to create harmony in this country today.
By honouring the life works of our Elders we can encapsulate and reminisce on all the positive things that they have given to enrich the lives of many Aboriginal and Islander (including the Torres Strait) communities and non-Aboriginal peoples alike.
Auntie Amy was the first Aboriginal teacher to be trained and permitted to teach in South Australia after completing her Early Childhood Certificate for kindergarten in 1950. She then spent three years as the Kindergarten Director at Mt Margaret Mission in Western Australia.
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 follow, made Amy more determined and she continued to “pester” the South Australian Education Department until she was finally accepted in 1957.
Teaching 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 she 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 Auntie Amy. They have never forgotten her and they never will.
Former South Australian Premier Dean Brown, singer Sia (Furler) and model Emma Balfour are amongst some of Auntie Amy’s former students.
Auntie Amy retired from teaching in 1993 and for five years couldn’t even walk past a school, she found it too “painful”. She had always led a very busy life teaching and she also managed to fit in a marriage plus raising five children – three stepchildren and two of her own.
In 1989, Auntie Amy was awarded NAIDOC Aboriginal of The Year and in 1998 NAIDOC Aboriginal Elder of The Year in South Australia. She also received an award for Outstanding Service in March 2010 from the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Forum of the Council of Aboriginal Elders SA.
In November 2012, the then Minister for Education and Child Development in South Australia, Grace Portolesi, announced that the SA Department for Education and Child Development would award 10 annual scholarships to carry Auntie Amy’s name as the Amy Levai Aboriginal Teaching Scholarships, to assist recipients as they embark on the new Pathways into Teaching Program.
The scholarships provide financial assistance and a pathway to employment for Aboriginal people studying to become a teacher. Auntie Amy was congratulated for her 35 years of service teaching in South Australian primary schools and for her professionalism, dedication and inspirational teaching practices.
Auntie Amy thanked the Department by saying “Teaching has been my life, it has been the thing that I loved doing the most. To be able to give to children and help them to learn, grow and move forward is a very special opportunity”.
Auntie Amy believed as an individual, you could make a difference to each and every child in your classroom.
In honour of Auntie Amy Levai, her daughter Deb and family have asked all to consider making a donation to the Amy Levai Memorial Fund which will raise funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF).
The ILF’s core aim is to make a positive and measurable difference in the early literacy levels of Indigenous Australian children in order to raise their prospects in schools.
The collective resources of the Australian Book Industry and the goodwill of the public and corporate sector raises funds to purchase and provide books and literacy resources to Indigenous Australian children in communities.
Auntie Amy would have liked nothing better than to know that Aboriginal children will always have the opportunity to read books. If you would like to contribute to the Fund please go to http://inmemory.gofundraise.com.au/page/AmyLevai