Essie Coffey
Essieina Shillingsworth[1]

(1941-02-25)25 February 1941
near Goodooga in northern New South Wales
Died3 January 1998(1998-01-03) (aged 56)
Other namesBush Queen of Brewarrina, Essieina Goodgabah (tribal name) [2]

Essie Coffey OAM, born Essieina Shillingsworth, (1941–1998) was born near Goodooga in northern New South Wales.[3][4] 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 an Aboriginal 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.[5] 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 film won the Greater Union Award for documentary film and the Rouben Mamoulian Award at the Sydney Film Festival 1979.[2] The sequel, My Life As I Live It, was released in 1993. Coffey also appeared in the film Backroads.

Essie Coffey and her husband, Albert "Doc" Coffey, raised 8 children and adopted 10 more.[3]



  1. ^ "About Essie Coffey, OAM". Essie Coffey, affectionately known as Bush Queen, was born Essieina Shillingsworth near Goodooga, N.S.W. Ballad Films Website. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b Who's Who of Australian Women. Methane Australia Pty Ltd. 1982. ISBN 0454004370.
  3. ^ a b "Martyrs in The Struggle for Justice". Australia looses Bush Queen of Brewarrina. The Koorie History Website. Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
  4. ^ "About Essie Coffey OAM". Ballad Films. 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  5. ^ Chaves, Renan Paiva; Tonelo, Gabriel Kitofi; Williams, Deane Martin (1 September 2020). "Essie Coffey's My Survival as an Aboriginal (1978) and My life as I live it (1993): autobiographical documentary and the socio-political struggle of an Aboriginal, Black woman". Studies in Documentary Film. 14 (3): 228–245. doi:10.1080/17503280.2019.1663589. ISSN 1750-3280.