Dr Gary Foley


Gary Foley was born in 1950 in Grafton, northern NSW of Gumbaynggirr descent. Expelled from school aged 15, Foley came to Sydney as an apprentice draughtsperson.

Since then he has been at the centre of major political activities including the: Springbok tour demonstrations (1971), Tent Embassy in Canberra (1972), Commonwealth Games protest (1982), and protests during the bicentennial celebrations (1988).

Foley was involved in the establishment of the first Aboriginal self-help and survival organisations including: Redfern’s Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne and the National Black Theatre.

In 1974 he was part of an Aboriginal delegation that toured China and in 1978 he took films about Black Australia to the Cannes Film festival.

Foley has been:

  • a director of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (1981), Aboriginal Arts Board (1983-86) and Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern (1988)
  • senior lecturer at Swinburne College
  • consultant to the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody (1988)
  • board member of the Aboriginal Legal Service
  • on the national executive of the National Coalition of Aboriginal Organisations

In 1994 Foley made the first Aboriginal owned and operated website when he created the Koori History website, which remains one of the most comprehensive Aboriginal education resources available today online.

Late in life Foley completed his BA and then gained first class honours in history in 2002. Between 2001 and 2005 he was also the Senior Curator for Southeastern Australia at Museum Victoria. Between 2005 and 2008 he was a lecturer/tutor in the Education Faculty of University of Melbourne. In 2012 he completed at PhD in History at the University of Melbourne. He has worked at Victoria University since 2008.

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Communications Lead
Wiradjuri, Ngemba & Paakantji

Rona is a proud Kaytetye woman from Central Australia who works with high impact organisations to create systems that centre First Nations people, knowledge and solutions.

Rona is the founder of Common Ground and brings 7 years 
of professional experience working across First Nations organisations and not for profits. Rona was previously the Director of First Nations at YLab, a social enterprise that puts young people with diverse lived experiences at the centre of designing and developing innovative and impactful solutions 
to complex social issues. Over her career, Rona has worked in policy at the Central Land Council, the Research Unit for Indigenous Languages at the University of Melbourne, Reconciliation Victoria, and the Foundation for Young Australians.In 2020, Rona was a finalist for the Victorian Young Achiever awards, was awarded a Westpac Social Change Fellowship. In 2019 Rona won a Diana Award and was named a 'Woman of the Future'  by Women's Weekly.Through her work with First Nations communities across Australia, Rona aims to create future systems that centre First Nations people, knowledge and cultures.Rona currently resides in Mpartnwe on Arrernte Country.