Vale Isabel Coe — a tireless activist

Saturday, November 17, 2012
The Aboriginal tent embassy where Coe dedicated much of her time.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council has expressed its deepest sympathies to the Coe family, following the passing of prominent Aboriginal activist Isabel Coe over the weekend.

Aunty Isabel was born in Cowra. A stalwart of the Aboriginal rights struggle, and a leading figure in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, she was also the lead litigant in Isabel Coe v the Commonwealth, an unsuccessful but important legal challenge which sought to assert the sovereignty of the Wiradjuri nation.

Aunty Isabel gained international prominence as a prominent Aboriginal activist in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Stephen Ryan said the Aboriginal nations of Australia owed a great debt to Aunty Isabel.

“Many of us fight for Aboriginal rights in boardrooms, or in our workplaces. Isabel 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 whose spent time around the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, or an important protest where strong Aboriginal leadership is required, will be of Aunty Isabel, 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 Isabel 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 Isabel Coe.

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

[This article is republished from Tracker Magazine.]

From GLW issue 946