Dr Lilla Watson


Aunty Lilla Watson is a visual artist, activist and educator who has dedicated her life to educating people nationally and internationally about Aboriginal knowledge and culture.

Born in Gangulu country near Rockhampton, Ms Watson moved to Brisbane in 1965.

She began studying at The University of Queensland in 1973, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in 1987. In 1979, she became the University’s first Aboriginal tutor, and later became a lecturer in Aboriginal Welfare studies.

During her time at UQ, Ms Watson worked on a landmark state-wide research project investigating Aboriginal and Islander Child Welfare in Queensland, the findings of which went on to inform policy and were later legally enshrined in the Child Protection Act 1999.

Ms Watson has contributed greatly to academia, authoring significant papers on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues and appearing as keynote speaker at several important conferences including the National Conference on Higher Education.

Ms Watson has been an activist for human rights since the 1970s, participating in social change movements including the anti-apartheid Springbok protests, and being in the first Aboriginal delegation to China, and many others since.

She has used her knowledge and skills to aid in Reconciliation between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples, and for advancing the wellbeing and rights of Indigenous peoples across the community through a range of programs, including being a co-founder of Link-Up Queensland – an agency working to reunite Stolen Generation children and families and BlackCard, a business which provides cultural education via workshops, consultancy and other resources.

Ms Watson has been a member of the Queensland Parole Board, along with the boards of the Queensland Art Gallery and the State Library, and was an appointed member of The University of Queensland Senate.

Since retiring from full-time paid employment in the 1990s, Ms Watson has become a successful visual artist, using the innovative medium of burn, smoke and scorch marks on paper to portray aspects of her spirituality, cultural identity and connection to Country. Her work has attracted national and international acclaim, and includes public displays installed at the John Oxley Library, Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane Magistrates Court and the State Library of Queensland.

In 2019, UQ was proud to present her with an Indigenous Community Impact Award.

Chancellor, I present to you Aunty Lilla Watson, Bachelor of Arts of this University and Doctor of the University honoris causa of Queensland University of Technology for the award of Doctor of the University honoris causa, bestowed by the Senate of The University of Queensland.


Indigenous Community Impact Award


Bachelor of Arts
Doctor of The University honoris causa