AHL's 50th Anniversary

AHL 50th Anniversary
Tue, 01/08/2023

Aboriginal Hostels Limited celebrates its 50th anniversary 

On 6 June 2023, Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) turned 50. 

We honoured this significant milestone with a national 50th anniversary event on 5 July, at the University of Canberra during NAIDOC Week 2023. 

It is fitting that the NAIDOC Week theme this year is For our Elders.

As explained on the NAIDOC website, ‘across every generation, our Elders have played, and continue to play, an important role and hold a prominent place in our communities and families. They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones.’

Pleasingly, many prominent Elders were able to attend our 50th anniversary national event, as well as staff and residents (past and present), AHL Board members, community members, stakeholders and supporters. 

All attendees convened to reflect on AHL’s proud achievements and steadfast legacy, with a solemn respect for the past and hope for the future. 

AHL Board Chair, Anthony Ashby, from the Gamilaraay-Yuwaalaraay nations told attendees on the night that, ‘as current stewards, we have inherited an organisation crafted by the wisdom and hard work of those who have played their part over the last half century.’

The Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians and proud woman of the Wiradjuri nation told the national event attendees that, ‘AHL is living proof that if we listen to First Nations people, we will get effective solutions to the challenges we face. AHL was at the forefront of self-determination in the 70’s. It was one of several organisations set up by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS). And it is living proof that communities are best placed to come up with solutions that work for them.’

This remains the case, with our workforce comprising approximately 50 per cent of First Nations people, in 42 hostels across Australia.

Our first hostel was established in Brisbane, with the opening of Yumba Hostel. 

Today, we have a range of multipurpose, medical and secondary education hostels.

‘The vision back then remains the vision today – to not only provide a culturally appropriate place to stay for First Nations people, but to also provide economic and employment opportunities for First Nations people,’ said Dave Chalmers, AHL’s Chief Executive Officer. 

The speakers at our national event took the opportunity to reminisce, pause and reflect on our 50-year history. They each explained their connections to AHL and reiterated why AHL has been a beloved organisation for generations of First Nations people.

Three strong and inimitable First Nations women delivered inspiring speeches: Professor Gracelyn Smallwood AM, AHL Board Deputy Chair Professor Valerie Cooms and Adjunct Professor Margo Neale.

Anita Leedie, one of our operations managers, travelled to Canberra from Queensland to receive a long-service award on the night, recognising Anita’s dedicated service to AHL for more than 30 years.

A key cultural advisor for the event was Dr Charles Perkins’ nephew, Neville Perkins. Neville was also notably, our first Aboriginal AHL general manager.

As Charles Perkins said in a speech in 1974 , ‘what I would think the Aboriginal people want […] is dignity, self-respect and a place in Australian society under some of the terms we dictate.’

Each of our hostels across the country also recently held their own local 50th anniversary celebrations, involving current and past staff as well as residents.

We look forward to being there for many future generations of First Nations people in years to come.


AHL 50th Anniversary


•    Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians
•    Celebrations at the anniversary event at Kirinari Hostel, Sydney
•    AHL Chair Anthony Ashby  
•    Neville Perkins and Anita Leedie
•    Professor Gracelyn Smallwood AM
•    Sam Juparulla Wickman and AHL Deputy Chair Professor Valerie Cooms 
•    Celebrations at the anniversary event at Yumba Hostel, Brisbane
•    Recorded presentation by Professor Tom Calma AO.