Gary Foley was born in Grafton (1950), northern NSW of Gumbainggir 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)
  • 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
  • Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne
  • National Black Theatre.

In 1974 he was part of an Aboriginal delegation that toured China and in 1978 he took films on 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 created 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.

Areas of expertise

  • Aboriginal activism
  • Aboriginal history
  • Aboriginal people & the film/television industry
  • Aboriginal people & the internet
  • Aboriginal people & the media
  • American history
  • Australian history & politics
  • Decolonisation pedagogy
  • German history
  • Social change
  • Social movements in Australia
  • Website design

Recent publications

Refereed journal articles

Foley, G. (2011) ‘Black Power, Land Rights and Academic History’ Special Edition Irene Watson (ed) Griffith Law Review: Law Theory, Society Vol. 20 No.3, pp.608-681.

Foley, G. with McKinnon C. (2008) ‘Duplicity and Deceit: Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations’, Melbourne Historical Journal, December Vol.36, pp.1-6.

Foley, G. and Anderson, T. (2006) ‘Land Rights and Aboriginal Voices’, Australian Journal of Human Rights, Special Issue: Marginality and Exclusion, Vol.12.No.1, pp.83-108.

Foley, G. (2000) ‘Native Title is Not Land Rights’ ojeblikket – Magazine for Visual Cultures, Special Issue, No.3, Vol.10, pp.66-87.

Foley, G. (2000) ‘Whiteness and Blackness in the Koori Struggle for Self-Determination: Strategic Considerations in the Struggle for Social Justice for Aboriginal People’, Just Policy No. 19/20, September, pp.74-87.


Foley, G, Schaap A and Howell E eds. (2014) The Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Sovereignty, Black Power, Land Rights and the State, Routledge: London UK. 

Dexter Barrie (2015) Pandora's Box: The Council for Aboriginal Affairs 1967-1976, Foley, G and Howell E. (eds) Keeaira Press: Southport QLD.

Refereed chapters

Foley, G. ‘ASIO and the Aboriginal Rights Movement 1951-1972’ in Meredith Burgmann ed (2014) Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO files, NewSouth Publishing: Sydney NSW.

Foley, G. (2014) ’A Reflection on the first month of the Aboriginal Embassy’ in The Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Sovereignty, Black Power, Land Rights and the State, ed. Gary Foley, Andrew Schaap and Edwina Howell, Routledge: London, UK. 67-83.

Foley, G. ‘A short history of the Australian Indigenous resistance 1950-1990’ in Allison Cadzow, John Maynard and Larissa Behrent, (2012) Nelson Aboriginal Studies, Cengage Learning: South Melbourne.

Foley, G. ‘The Australian Labor Party and the Native Title Act’ in Aileen Moreton-Robertson (ed) (2007) Sovereign Subjects, Allen and Unwin: Crows Nest NSW.

Foley, G. ‘Teaching Whites a Lesson’ in Verity Bergmann and Jenny Lee eds (1988) Staining the Wattle: a people’s history of Australia since 1788, McPhee Gribble: Fitzroy. Also published as ‘Teaching Whites a Lesson’ in Verity Burgmann ed. (1989) A Peoples History of Australia: Vol. 4., Canberra. 

Conference presentations

Foley, G. Keynote Speaker. ‘A Black Life’ Marxism Conference, 18 April 2014, University of Melbourne.

Foley, G. Keynote Speaker. Aboriginal Embassy Symposium. ANU Canberra. 20-23 June 2011.

Foley, G. Keynote Speaker ‘Black Power, Land Rights and Academic History’ Symposium: The 2007 Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: Where too from here? University of South Australia, 9 December 2010.

Foley, G. Oodgeroo Noonuccal Annual Lecture, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane 30 September 2009.

Foley, G. ‘By 2075 the Aboriginal Genocide will be complete’ Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Sydney Opera House, Sydney, October 2009.

Foley, G. ‘On the Aboriginal Arts Board’ Paper presented at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Conference, ANU Canberra 2008.

Teaching responsibilities

Dr Foley teaches and coordinates the unit Aboriginal History and Political Movements. He is also available for research supervision.

Research grants

Foley, G. with Howell E. Victoria University Central Research Grant. ‘ASIO surveillance of Black Power activists 1968-1976.’ 2014. Totalling $26,780.

Foley, G. with Ilbijerri Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre. Australia Council for the Arts. Creative development phase of a theatre production on ASIO surveillance of Black Power activists. 2013, 2014. Totalling $30,000.

Foley, G. with Howell E. Australian Communities Foundation for the publication of Barrie Dexter’s two volume historical monograph Pandora’s Box: The Council for Aboriginal Affairs 1967-1976. 2012, 2013. Totalling $15,000.

Industry experience

  • Expert consultant. Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation – Jabiru Area School. Curriculum development and teacher training. 2013.
  • Writer, Performer and Creator. Foley, with Ilbijerri Theatre company, Melbourne Festival, Arts Centre, 2011 and Sydney Festival, Sydney Opera House, 2012.
  • Senior Curator Southeast Australia. Melbourne Museum 2001-2003.
  • Chairperson Melbourne Aboriginal Education Association. 1994-1995.
  • Co-ordinator and Legal Representative Successful battle to re-open Northland Secondary School. 1992-1995
  • Director Aboriginal Arts Board. 1984-1987.
  • Chairperson. Committee of Inquiry into Aboriginal Health. Dr Cornwall Minister for Health South Australia.1983.
  • Chairperson. Aboriginal Advisory Committee Australian Council of Churches Sydney NSW 1981-1983.
  • Public Relations Officer. Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Fitzroy Victoria. 1981-1983.
  • Founder and Director. Aboriginal Information Centre London England. 1979-1981. Interviewee. Lorena Allam. ‘Compromise and Confrontation: Senator Neville Bonner’. Hindsight ABC Radio. 29 April 2012.

Appearances in the media

Print Media

Regular column 'The Contrarian' Tracker Magazine 2011-2014

Foley, G. ‘Gallipoli not the only war to define Australian warfare’ The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times, 25 April 2014.

Foley, G. ‘The age of assimilation steams on’ Tracker Magazine, March/April 2014

Foley, G. ‘Truth is the casualty of the History Wars’ Tracker Magazine, February 2014

Foley, G. ‘Education Minister Pyne Opens a New Front in the History Wars’ Tracker Magazine, January 2014

Foley, G. ‘Looking Back on 2013: A personal reflection’ Tracker Magazine December 2013

Documentary Film

The Redfern Story - ABCTV Director Darlene Johnson. Subject. 2014.

Silent Shout: The Nicky Winmar Story- Director Tim O’Brien. Interviewee. 2014.

Persons of Interest - SBS TV Director Haydn Keenan. Subject 2013.

An Dubh ina Gheal (Assimilation) SAOI Media Dublin, Irish Television, Nominated for Prix Circom. Interviewee 2012.

Lionel  Director Eddie Martins 2009. Interviewee.

Bastardy - Director Amiel Courtin-Wilson 2009. Interviewee.

Gulpilil: One Red BloodDirector Darlene Johnson 2002. Interviewee.

The Foundation 1963-1977 Chili Films, Director Troy J Russell. 2002

A Time to Dream Director Bruce McGuinness. 1974. Second camera operator.

Black Redfern Director Gary Foley and Irene Watson (nee Casey) 1973

‘Ningla A-na’ Director Alessandro Cavadini. 1972. Subject.

Feature Film

Pandemonium Director Haydn Keenan 1987. Actor.

Dogs in Space Director Richard Lowenstein 1986. Actor & Script Consultant

Where the Green Ants Dream Director Werner Herzog.1984. Technical Advisor and Script Consultant.

Going Down  Director Hayden Keenan 1982. Actor

Buckeye & Pinto  Director Phil Pinder 1978. Actor

Backroads Director Phil Noyce 1976. Actor and Co-writer


Lateline. Reconciliation special. ABC TV 7 May 1991. Subject.

60 Minutes. Profile of Gary Foley. Channel 9 Broadcast 1 October 1989. Subject.

Flying Doctors. Crawfords Productions 1990. Actor.

Country PracticeJNP Productions/ HSV-7 1989-90 Actor and Co-writer.

Basically Black ABC-TV. 1973. Actor and Co-writer.

ABC News Report Richard Carlton, ABC TV. 20 July 1972. Subject.


Interviewee. Tiga Balyes The Best Country. Brisbane Radio. 5 May 2014 

Interviewee. Kulja Coulston. The Grapevine. RRR Radio Melbourne. 10 February 2014.

Interviewee. Nazeem Husain for ABC radio 1 January 2014 (interviewed on 19 December 2013).

Interviewee with Robbie Thorpe on Fire First 3CR Radio 3 October 2013

Interviewee. Lorena Allam. ‘Compromise and Confrontation: Senator Neville Bonner’. Hindsight ABC Radio. 29 April 2012