Gai-mariagal Festival 2024

A Celebration of the Oldest Living Culture on the Planet
26th May to 14th July 2024

Dennis Foley – Festival Ambassador, Elder and Knowledge Holder

His matrilineal connection is Gai-mariagal of Northern Sydney, and his patrilineal connection is to the Wiradjuri people of the Turon River region. He is active within the Indigenous community and Indigenous business associations. He has also received several ministerial appointments to state and federal Advisory Committees and currently researches in Canada, Ireland and across Aboriginal Australia.

Dennis teaches the stories of his Grandmother country, Gai-mariagal Country: Matriarchal country which today is known as the Northern Sydney region of Sydney, Australia.
As men and women, we share this Country, we live on this landscape. Our collective wellbeing relies upon our collective strength, resilience and respect; as men and women, supporting and empowering each other.

PROFESSOR DENNIS FOLEY, member of the Business Government and Law Faculty at the University of Canberra. Working at the university since January 2018. His main research focus is towards the emerging discipline of Indigenous enterprise and entrepreneurship. Dennis’ career within the tertiary education sector began researching an Indigenous Career and Employment strategy at Griffith University followed by the establishment of the first Australian Indigenous Degree program in Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art. Several teaching appointments followed including teaching MBA, Indigenous Land-Use Management Practice at the University of Queensland, Business and Management courses at the Australian Catholic University, and teaching Humanities, Education and the Arts at the Universities of Queensland, Sydney, Queensland University of Technology and the University of Hawaii, as well as Financial and Strategic Management at Swinburne University.
Prior to joining the tertiary education sector, Dennis held middle to senior management positions within the banking and finance sector. Professor Foley is a Fulbright Scholar and dual Endeavour Fellow. His publications focus on social inclusion and cross disciples such as Indigenous Literature, Indigenous History, Indigenous Studies, Business Management (Entrepreneurship) and Indigenous Epistemology and Pedagogy.

Dennis has written numerous academic articles through his career as well as two books, “Repossession of Our Spirit” and recently “What the Colonist Never Knew”
What the Colonists Never Knew: paints a vivid picture of what it was like to grow up Aboriginal in Sydney, alongside the colonists, from 1788 to the present. Peter Read’s exploration of the history of Aboriginal Sydney is interwoven with Dennis Foley’s memories of his own Gai-mariagal country, taking readers on a journey through the region’s past. This book offers an honest account of the disappointment, pain and terror experienced by Sydney’s First Peoples, and celebrates the survival of their spirit and their culture.

Repossession of our Spirit: “Aboriginal people were still living in their traditional country in the 1950’s – right in the middle of Sydney. This extraordinary story tells how Dennis Foley, a Gai-mariagal (northern Sydney) man grew up with his grandmother and uncles. He learned the traditional stories of Manly, Narrabeen, Crows Nest and Forty Baskets Beach. After you’ve read this story, your Sydney can never be the same again.”

We pay our respects to Dennis, and his incredible generosity and knowledge in teaching us the stories of his Grandmother, matriarchal stories, story of Gai-mariagal lands.

Professor Dennis Foley Professor Dennis Foley

Susan Moylan-Coombs

Susan Moylan-Coombs’ ancestry is from one of the oldest surviving living cultures on this planet. She is a Woolwonga Gurindji woman from the Northern Territory and was taken at birth from her parents, who were also removed as part of the former government policies; these children are today known as the Stolen Generations.

Born Susan Calma she is related to the former Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tom Calma. At the age of 3 years, Susan was adopted by the eldest son of the iconic Australian public servant Dr H.C. “Nugget” Coombs and raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Gai-mariagal country as Susan Coombs.

Susan has extensive experience working with First Nations communities nationally, with specific expertise in community consultation, empowerment, healing and wellbeing and the facilitation of voice and storytelling. Susan previously held the positions of Producer, Director and later Executive Producer, ABC’s Indigenous Programs Unit and Head of Production, NITV a division of SBS.

In 2015 Susan created The Gaimaragal Group, an organisation established to lead social change and create social impact by bringing together like minds and like spirits. She believes that the philosophies and teachings of Australia’s First Nations Peoples, the way of life that has sustained people for tens of thousands of years is worth sharing, and that in doing so, we can create a new story of connection and wellbeing for all Australians. The aim is to facilitate the voice of the Elders in the contemporary social space, empower the youth to realise their full potential, and provide two-way cultural translation to bring individuals and communities together.

Today, Susan uses her expertise to work with mainstream organisations and communities in the provision of cultural inclusion strategies and immersion session as well as social planning processes. She is one of the founding Board member of the PTSD Australia New Zealand (Fearless Outreach) organisation as well as many community committees in the Northern Sydney Region and Board member of NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce.

In 2001 Susan founded the Guringai Festival in Northern Sydney tody known as the Gai-mariagal Festival. It is a celebration of First Peoples culture and heritage, which brings together communities in recognition of the traditional custodians of the land in the spirit of reconciliation.

Susan Moylan-Coombs Susan Moylan-Coombs

Caroline Glass-Pattison

Caroline Glass-Pattison is a proud Wiradjuri, Dungutti woman, living on Gai-mariagal Country for over three decades.

An advocate of rights and social justice for Australian’s First Nations People, with an extensive professional career, Caroline has experience working within Indigenous Affairs both government and non-government systems. Caroline has followed in her Grandmother Polly Moylan-Smith’s footsteps hope for the future as a collective of First Nations Peoples, living on the same continent, to recognise our unique environments and differences of all peoples and cultures as a great source of pride.

With 20 years’ experience working in the Community Services sector, with both Local Government and Not For Profit areas in community development, Caroline has now shifted her professional focus to wellness and wholistic healing practices.

Her vision:
To hear language of ‘disadvantage’ and ‘gaps’ disappear to be replaced with resilience, survival, excellence and innovation.
“We should acknowledge our past in full, and embrace our future”.

Caroline Glass-Pattison Caroline Glass-Pattison

Our People

 Dennis Foley – Gai-mariagal man Dennis Foley – Gai-mariagal man

His matrilineal connection is Gai-mariagal of Northern Sydney, and his patrilineal connection is to the Wiradjuri people of the Turon River region.

Dennis Foley – Festival Ambassador, Elder and Knowledge Holder
Susan Moylan-Coombs

Susan Moylan-Coombs is Woolwonga Gurindji from the Northern Territory. Having lived on the Northern Beaches for over fifty years, where she has raised her family, Susan calls Gai-mariagal lands her spirit country.

Committee Chair
Caroline Glass-Pattison

Caroline Glass-Pattison is a proud Wiradjuri, Dungutti woman, living on Gai-mariagal Country for over three decades.

Committee Chair

We acknowledge the original custodians of the land, the Gai-mariagal clans of the Northern Sydney Region.  We pay our respects to the Elders past and present.