Essie Coffey

Essie Coffey (1940 - 1998), OAM , was born at Essiena Goodgabah in southern Queensland. She was a Muruwari woman and the co-founder of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service and served on a number of government bodies and Aboriginal community organisations. Her family avoided forced relocation to a reserve by following seasonal rural work.

Coffey co-founded the Western Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Museum in Brewarrina, serving on several government bodies and Aboriginal community organisations including the Aboriginal Lands Trust and the Aboriginal Advisory Council. She was an inaugural member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on 10 June 1985, for service to the Aboriginal community. She was nominated for an MBE but refused it, explaining "I knocked the MBE back because I'm not a member of the British Empire".

Coffey was also an active filmmaker. In 1978 she made "My survival as an Aboriginal", which she gave to Queen Elizabeth II as a gift at the opening of Australia's new Parliament House in 1988. The sequel, My Life As I Live It, was released in 1993. Coffey also appeared in the film 'Backroads'.

Essie Coffey and her husband, Doc, had 18 children, 10 of whom were adopted.


* [ Australian women biographies]

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