Page 19 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 27 November 2012

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She will be remembered for her passion and her determination to fight for Aboriginal rights. While there is still a long way to go to close the gap and improve the education and employment outcomes of Aboriginal people, it is through the efforts of women like Isabell Coe that these issues remain high on the national agenda.

MR SESELJA (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition): On behalf of the Canberra Liberals, I express our condolences to the family and friends of Isabell Coe. The Wiradjuri elder Isabell died on Saturday in Cowra at the age of 61. Isabell Coe was an Aboriginal advocate instrumental in establishing and keeping the tent embassy in Canberra going since 1972. Isabell’s work as an activist for the Aboriginal rights struggle has touched many communities across Australia and no doubt inspired many people.

Together with her partner Billy Craigie, Isabell raised her family in Sydney. Her family all became strong advocates of Aboriginal rights and helped to establish Aboriginal community-based services in Redfern.

The Chairperson of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Stephen Ryan, said:

Many of us fight for Aboriginal rights in boardrooms, or in our workplaces. Isabell Coe chose to fight for our rights at the community level. She led the battle on our streets for many years, and even as her health declined she remained active.

An enduring memory for anyone who spent time around the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, or an important protest where strong Aboriginal leadership is required, will be of Aunty Isabell, still fighting for her people, despite being confined to a wheelchair.

She was on the frontline of protests and it gave her an authenticity. It’s because of that authenticity, and her determination to fight with the people and for the people, that Aunty Isabell won so much respect, not just in NSW, but around the nation.

Much of her struggle was with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Her goal was to highlight the injustices suffered by our people on the world stage. On that front she was very effective. While our fight for Aboriginal equality goes on, younger Aboriginal people need to remember that the relative advantage they enjoy today is because of the fight in people like Isabell Coe.

Aboriginal Australia was greatly enriched by Aunty Isabell’s efforts. She will be deeply missed.

The Mayor of Cowra, Isabell’s home town, said:

I think it’s sad, very, very sad for the Aboriginal community, and the broader community.

Someone who has committed the amount that she has to both the Aboriginal community and to reconciliation over the years will obviously be very sadly

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