Woman Huggins, Jacqueline (Jackie) Gail (1956 - )


19 August 1956
Ayr, Queensland, Australia
Historian and Indigenous activist

Written by Sharon M. Harrison, The University of Melbourne

Jacqueline (Jackie) Gail Huggins was born on 19 August 1956 in Ayr, in north-eastern Queensland to Rita and Jack Huggins. She is of the Bidjara / Pitjara (Central Queensland) and Biri / Birri Gubba Juru (North Queensland) peoples. Her mother, Rita Huggins (née Holt), was born on the land of the Bidjara-Pitjara people (Central Queensland)-now known as Carnarvon George-600 kilometres north-west of Brisbane. Rita Huggins' people were forcibly removed from the Bidjara-Pitjara lands when she was a child. Classified as a 'half-caste', Rita Huggins was taken to the Barambah Aboriginal Settlement (later renamed Cherbourg), while 'full-bloods' were removed to the Woorabinda Aboriginal Settlement. John Henry (Jack) Huggins was born in Ayr in northern Queensland. He sustained injuries during the war and died in 1958 when Huggins and her siblings were still young. Following Jack Huggins death, Rita Huggins moved her young family to Brisbane to be closer to her own country and family. The family lived in a Housing Commission home in the outer suburb of Inala where they were amongst the first Aboriginal families in an area that would later have the highest population of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Brisbane. Rita Huggins became involved in the One People of Australia League (OPAL) during the 1960s and worked as a director of the organisation for twenty years. Huggins has lived within the Brisbane community for most of her life and has extensive kinship networks in Brisbane through the Cherbourg Aboriginal community.

Huggins attended Inala State High school before leaving school at the age of 15 in order to work and to assist in supporting her family. She was a typist with the Australian Broadcasting Commission at Toowong in Queensland from 1972 to 1978 when she joined the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra. It was not until Huggins joined the Council for Aboriginal Development and National Aboriginal Secretariat that she began to see more Indigenous faces and Indigenous role models (mainly men) in her workplace. In 1980 she was appointed to Field Officer in the Brisbane Area Office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs where she received further promotions. Huggins' son, John Henry Huggins, was born in 1985. That same year, Huggins commenced full-time studies at the University of Queensland, graduating with a BA (Hons) in History and Anthropology in 1987. She was awarded a Diploma of Education (Aboriginal Education) in 1988. As part of her Diploma of Education, Huggins spent eight weeks teaching in Ti Tree, two hour's drive north of Alice Springs. She subsequently completed Honours in History/Women's Studies (1989) from Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia.

From 1990 to 1997 Huggins worked as a freelance writer, historian and consultant, employed in the academic, government and community spheres. Examples of the many commissions and consultancies with which Huggins has been involved include consultancies on homelessness, domestic violence and breast cancer. Her appointments include: Historian, Heritage Section, Brisbane City Council (1993-1994); Consultant, Charles Sturt University, Albury (1994-1996); and Consultant, Australian History, Deakin University, Victoria (1993-1994). Huggins produced Gundoos stories, a book about urban identity, by Aboriginal students at West End Primary School, (1993). She was commissioned by the Queensland Distance Education Commission to write booklets on Aboriginal place, families, and identity and urban lifestyles for the 'Aunty Irene' Project (1993-1994), and to write the play, 'Maarkkings' for Contact Youth Theatre Murrie Program, Brisbane (1993). Huggins was also commissioned by the Black Day Dawning Company to run ten writing workshops for twelve Aboriginal women writers at Inala, Brisbane (1993) and was a consultant for the Queensland Writers Centre to establish a Register for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers and Illustrators, a competition on Aboriginal culture for schools and networking (1993). In 1995 Huggins was Writer in Residence, Charles Sturt University, Albury N.S.W., running workshops and readings with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and the community. In 1996 Huggins she with fellow historian Peter Read from the History Department at the Australian National University, undertaking a project in conjunction with the National Library, interviewing new and emerging Aboriginal leaders. Huggins held an appointment as a writer in residence in Adelaide working with the community, collecting oral histories, particularly with the theme of mother and daughter relationships. She also worked on oral history projects on the domestic servants 'White Apron, Black Hands', and the 'Australia Remembers' program, interviewing a lot of the old people who served in the war and their spouses. In 1997 Huggins took up an appointment as Deputy Director of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit at the University of Queensland. She is an Adjunct Professor, Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Australian National University and former Adjunct Professor, School of Social Work and Applied Human Science, the University of Queensland. In 1999 Huggins worked with the National Library of Australia's Seven Years On and Bringing Them Home Oral History Projects and also other oral history projects, and the Racism in Schools Project at the University of Queensland.

Huggins has served on many committees, advisory boards, inquiries and commissions, notably in the areas of Indigenous education and employment, domestic and family violence, the prison and corrections system, constitutional reform and philanthropy: Founding Member, Kangaroo Point Technical College Indigenous Advisory Body; National NAIDOC Committee (1979-1983); National Aboriginal Employment Action Committee (1987); Consultant, TAFE National Centre for Research and Development, South Australia (1989); Chairperson, Queensland Corrective Services Prisoner Education Management Committee (1990-1993); Steering Committee member on Queensland's Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Health Commission, and Adviser to Queensland Minister of Health (1990-1991); Queensland Legislation Review Committee (1990-1991); Gaming Machine Community Benefit Trust Fund Committee (1994-1997); Chairperson, Steering Committee, National Aboriginal Gallery, Canberra, ACT (1995), Member Indigenous Advisory Board, University of Southern Queensland (1995-1998); Council member, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) (1995-2007); Co-Commissioner, National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (1996-1997); Commissioner for Queensland, National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (1997); Advisory Committee, National Australia Day Council, Official Volume on Australia's Federation (1997); National NAIDOC Committee (1997-1998); Council Member, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland (1997-2000); Australian Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation - Executive Member and Co-Convenor, Documents Committee (1994-2000) and Board Member (2001); Commissioner, Queensland Constitutional Review Commission (1998-1999); Chairperson, Queensland Domestic Violence Council (2001); Public Interest Advocacy Centre Stolen Generations Reference Group (2001); Foundation Director (2001-2007) and Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia with Fred Chaney and Mark Leibler; Member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Review Panel (2002-2004); Co-chair Independent Inquiry Into Release Policy and Practice in the Queensland Prison System (2004); AFL Foundation Board member (2006); Co-chair Options for the future of Indigenous Australia stream at the Australian 2020 Summit (2008). She has also served on the board of LEADIndigenous Limited, a not-for profit organisation which ran programs to assist Indigenous people to develop business experience. Huggins has also been involved in various philanthropic organisations. She has served on the Foundation for Young Australians and Indigenous Selection Committee for the Minerals Council Scholarships Program, Foundation for Young Australians, in partnership with the Minerals Council of Australia. Huggins is a Member of the Indigenous Advisory Board of the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research, Central Queensland University. Huggins served on the State Library Board of Queensland, she has chaired its Multicultural Services Consultative Committee and is currently served on the Board's Indigenous Advisory Committee. She was also a member of the Vice-Chancellor's Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Advisory Committee, University of Queensland. Huggins is the Director of the Telstra Foundation and formerly the Director of the Silver Lining Foundation.

Huggins has published widely on Australian Indigenous issues, and in particular on history and women's studies. She has received grants and awards such as an Arts Queensland grant to compile two Aboriginal anthologies (1994), and the University of Melbourne Stewart Murray Memorial Fellowship. In 1991 Huggins received a grant from AIATSIS to research and write Auntie Rita. The book, which she completed with her Mother, Rita Huggins, won the 1996 Stanner Award for Indigenous Literature from AIATSIS. Huggins published Aboriginal workers, co-edited with Ann McGrath and Kay Saunders (1995). Sister Girl is a compilation of essays and interviews that represent a decade of her writings (1998). She has received grants to attend festivals and conferences. Huggins has served on a number of arts, literary and editorial boards, for example, the AIATSIS Aboriginal Studies Press, as a Judge for the David Uniapon Award, a University of Queensland Press award open only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors who have not been published (1995-1998), Kaurna Higher Educational Journal (1995), Queensland Review, Hecate (1990), Labour History, Kooemba Jdarra Performing Arts Company (1990-1995), Arts Queensland Literature Assessment Panel (1992-1993), Queensland Writers Centre (1994-1995) and the Queensland Writers' Centre Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Reference Group.

Huggins received the Queensland Premier's Millennium Award for Excellence in Indigenous Affairs (2000). She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2001 for service to the indigenous community, particularly in the areas of reconciliation, social justice, literacy and women's issues, and received the Centenary Medal for distinguished service to the community through the promotion of reconciliation (2001). Huggins received a Doctor of the University of Queensland honoris causa in 2006 and was named University of Queensland Alumnus of the Year in 2007. She was elected a Fellow the Australian Academy of Humanities in 2007.

Published Resources


  • Huggins, Jackie, Sister Girl: the writings of Aboriginal activist and historian Jackie Huggins, University of Queensland Press (UQP), Brisbane, Queensland, 1998. Details
  • Huggins, Rita and Huggins, Jackie, Auntie Rita, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1994. Details

Edited Books

  • Who's Who in Australia, Crown Content, Melbourne, Victoria, 1927 - 2013. Details

Journal Articles

  • Huggins, Jackie, 'Black Women and Women's Liberation', Hecate, vol. 13, no. 1, 1987, pp. 77 - 82. Details
  • Huggins, Jackie, 'Indigenous Women and Leadership: A Personal Reflection', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 1, 2004. Details

Online Resources

See also