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Paul Coe

(1949)


Paul Coe

Source: Penny Tweedie Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Paul Coe, a Wiradjuri man, grew up in Cowra, west of Sydney. He moved to Sydney in the late 1960s and became involved with Redfern community development projects such as the All Blacks football team. In May 1970 Paul was one of the organisers of a march down George Street in Sydney to the offices of the Vestey Company, the leaseholders of the Wave Hill station where stockmen had gone 'on strike' initially over poor pay and conditions, but increasingly over land. Coe gave a stirring speech supporting the new call for 'land rights'.

Two years later Paul Coe was at the forefront of the Tent Embassy protests outside Parliament House in Canberra.

He was one of the initiators of the Aboriginal Legal Service, which opened its doors in 1971. The service provided legal representation to Aboriginal people charged with offences.

In 1979 Paul Coe took a case to the High Court of Australia challenging British sovereignty. He lost but his argument was another step in the direction of what became known as the Mabo judgement when rights were recognised. Paul Coe continues to bring his legal training to bear in his work advocating for Indigenous Australians.

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