Isabell Coe lauded for her role in Aboriginal politics

AAP Herald Sun November 12, 2012 3:03PM

Aboriginal activist Isabell Coe was a standout among her contemporaries, Aboriginal Tent Embassy co-founder Michael Anderson says.


Eveleigh Street, Redfern - A fire ceremony to honour all Aboriginals who died over the years. (Andrzej Liguz)

Ms Coe, a Wiradjuri Ngunnawal woman, died on Saturday.

She grew up at the Erambie mission run by the NSW Prisons Board near Cowra in central NSW and moved to Sydney in the late 1960s to get a formal education.

It was in Sydney that she met Mr Anderson.

"We met up with all these young people who had great spirit and spunk and determination and Isabell was one of them," Mr Anderson said. "She was a standout, Isabel, because she was such a force to be reckoned with in terms of her as a lady.

Mr Anderson said Ms Coe was there (In Sydney) when the idea was born to take a protest to Canberra, which later spawned the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Ms Coe, who passed away on 10th November 2012, grew up at the Erambie mission run by the NSW Prisons Board near Cowra in central NSW and moved to Sydney in the late 1960s to get a formal education.

It was in Sydney that she met Mr Anderson.

"We met up with all these young people who had great spirit and spunk and determination and Isabell was one of them," he told AAP.

"She was a standout, Isabel, because she was such a force to be reckoned with in terms of her as a lady.

"Her commitment and passion certainly stood out.

"She towered over some of the young fellas in the Black Power movement back in those days."

Mr Anderson said Ms Coe was there when the idea was born to take a protest to Canberra, which later spawned the tent embassy.

"She came back to the house in Erskineville where we made the decision," he said.

"We were looking for volunteers to go down to Canberra and start a protest."

Ms Coe was one of those.

Mr Anderson said her death, aged 61, was anticipated.

But he was saddened it coincided with the 40th year of tent embassy activism.

"Everybody dreaded the day but we knew the day was coming."

Ms Coe was also instrumental in establishing the Redfern Aboriginal Children's Service.