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Aboriginal Australian activist, Lorraine Mafi-Williams (1940-2001), was in children’s homes from the age of twelve.

Lorraine Mafi-Williams was born to a Dainggatti mother and a Bundjalung father at Purfleet Mission, New South Wales, over 300 km north of Sydney. Purfleet Mission was set up by the NSW government in 1901 to “protect and segregate” Aboriginal people who had little control over their lives and lived in poverty.

One of six children, Lorraine was twelve when she and her siblings were stolen from their parents, an event she later recalled vividly.

The boys were taken to Kinchella Boys Home, while Lorraine and her sisters were taken to Armidale Children’s Home (or it may have been St Patrick’s Orphanage in Armidale).

After a few months, Lorraine was sent to Cootamundra Girls Home to be trained as a domestic servant where, at age thirteen, she worked all day washing and cleaning.

At age eighteen, Lorraine got a job in Sydney and began making inquiries about her parents. She made it back to them at the age of nineteen.

In 1970, Lorraine established the Aboriginal Community Health Service, working with Dr Herbert “Nugget” Coombs (1906-1997) who was appointed chair of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs in 1967.

During the 1970s and 1980s Mafi-Williams became part of a powerful activist group in Sydney. With her cousin Mum Shirl and her niece Isabel Coe, she was instrumental in helping care for over 4,000 children of many ethnic backgrounds (The Australian Women’s Register).

Lorraine Mafi-Williams also help to set up the Black Theatre in Newtown and learned how to produce and act in films. Her film, Eelemarni, won an award for Best Australian Film at the 1988 Melbourne Film Festival.

Lorraine was also a writer. She wrote children’s stories in the 1970s and edited the first anthology of Aboriginal poetry, Spirit Song, which was published by Omnibus Books in 1993.

Lorraine Mafi-Williams was an (unsuccessful) independent candidate for the NSW seat of Ballina in 1995. By then she was in conflict with others in the Ballina area because she wanted to set up a sanctuary for her people at Leavers Lake.


Aboriginal Australia & the Torres Strait Islands. Guide to Indigenous Australia. Lonely Planet Publications, 2001:25.

“Cootamundra Training Home (1911 – 1969).” Find & Connect, 2021.

Parry, Naomi. “Coventry Home (1933 – 1985?).” Find & Connect, 2019.

“Kinchella Boys Home.” Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, 2020.

“Mafi-Williams, Lorraine (1940-2001).” Indigenous Australia.

“St Patrick’s Orphanage (1919 – 1983).” Find & Connect, 2021.

Kovacic, Leonarda and Lemon, Leonarda. “Williams, Lorraine Mafi- (1940-).” Australian Women’s Register, 2019.