Dr. Evelyn Scott

“If you don’t think something is right, then challenge it.”

Dr Evelyn Scott, Australian activist, 1935-2017

Evelyn Scott was a key figure in the advancement of Australian Indigenous peoples’ rights throughout her life. She played a crucial role during the 1967 Constitutional Referendum which involved the question of whether Indigenous peoples should be included in the national census. Spearheading the “Yes” campaign, Scott’s efforts were imperative, and her results triumphant. This shift had a springboard effect, giving the government leverage to build more inclusive and egalitarian laws for Indigenous Australians. 

A commanding figure who often wore a signature black hat, she was the grand-daughter of a man brought to Queensland from Vanuatu in chains as a slave labourer to work the sugar fields. When she wasn’t fighting for change in the boardroom, she liked to fish on the beach with her family. Throughout her 30-year career, Scott not only campaigned for reconciliation through the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) and other organizations, she was also active in promoting Indigenous Australian women’s rights specifically, and in campaigning to protect the Great Barrier Reef though her chair positions for several important organizations.  

Perhaps one of the most visible and public displays of her influence and leadership was in the year 2000, when 250,000 people marched across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to show their support for meaningful reconciliation between Australia’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Scott was also instrumental in the establishment of legal, housing, employment and medical services for Indigenous communities and for this, as well as her work toward reconciliation, she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2003, having already received two honorary Doctorate degrees.


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