I’m Susan Moylan Coombs but I haven’t always had this name. My name was Susan Calma when I was removed from my family at birth and placed into Garden Point Mission, Melville Island, Northern Territory as part of the stolen generations. At the age of three, I was adopted by Jan and John Coombs QC, and became Susan Coombs. I grew up by the beach in the Warringah suburb of Harbord (now Freshwater) with three sisters, all close to my age.
My sisters and I were raised to be active in our community and to have a strong social conscience. My late father, John Coombs QC served as President of Amnesty International and President of the NSW Bar Association. My late mother was a passionate environmentalist ahead of her time, who had profound respect for preserving Australia’s natural environment by reducing waste, with particular concern for the family’s coastal ‘playground’ metres from our home, at South Curl Curl Beach.
My grandfather was Dr H.C. “Nugget” Coombs, inaugural Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia and advisor to seven Australian Prime Ministers. Nugget was an advocate for Indigenous rights many years before I was born.
My community service began aged 12 at Harbord Public School when I was voted School Captain. At 16, I became Australia’s first Indigenous surf life saver, at South Curl Curl Beach as part of team of women who became Australia's first female Surf Lifesavers to gain their Surf Bronze Medallions.
I remained in Warringah and raised my family in Killarney Heights, where I still live today.
Growing up in a family grounded so naturally in social responsibility and committed to public service is part of the reason I am running as an Independent candidate in Warringah in 2019.
I am also driven to serve my country as a Federal MP because I am a First Nations woman. I am the only Warringah candidate qualified to balance my life-long local residency and knowledge of the electorate’s people and their aspirations, with the nation’s need for unity with Indigenous people, culture and rights.
Now is the time for me to continue the work of my grandfather, Nugget Coombs, in honour of his work with First Nations people, to unite all Australians in healing.
Broadcasting and television production career
From 1987 until 2013, I worked in national television broadcasting and media production. My roles included Executive Producer Indigenous Programs Unit ABC TV, through to Head of Production NITV, a division of SBS.
Producing the ABC’s flagship children’s show Play School, when my two children were young, brought me personal and professional joy.
As a young ABC TV division staffer in 1992, I directed the Paul Keating Redfern Park Speech that launched the United Nations Decade for Indigenous Peoples.
In 2008, I was executive producer for the live broadcast from Parliament House in Canberra, of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
In 2000, I created the annual Gai-mariagal Festival (formerly the Guringai Festival), a celebration of culture and heritage in the Northern Sydney region. Through continuing to lead this important local event, I directly contribute to reconciliation and positive outcomes for all Australians.
Current professional activities
Since 2013, through my company, The Gaimaragal Group Pty Ltd, I have engaged with organisations including:
Foundations, Boards and Committees
I am a founding director of The Nugget Foundation and have also contributed time to the following boards and committees: