Marie Coleman AO

Marie Coleman was the first Chair of the National Social Welfare Commission.

Honour Roll

Marie Coleman was born in Dubbo, New South Wales in 1933. She has been a journalist, public servant, educator, social worker, scriptwriter and consultant.

In 1969-70, Marie was a committee member of the planning group which established the Family Planning Association Victoria. Following the election of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972, Marie was invited by Minister William Hayden and Prime Minister Edward Gough Whitlam to Chair the newly created National Social Welfare Commission.

In 1975, Marie was invited by Minister Senator Margaret Guilfoyle and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser to accept the appointment as Director of the Office of Child Care in the Department of Social Security. As Director, she introduced the Family Support Program in Child Care. Marie was the first woman to head a Commonwealth statutory authority, and was the first woman to hold, under legislation, powers of a permanent head of department.

She has been influential in the development of Australian social welfare primarily in areas of child care services, aged care services and health insurance. Marie assisted in the development of plans for Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia, and was appointed Director, during her tenure at the Office of Child Care. Marie is a member of the National Foundation for Australian Women and the Australian Reproductive Health Foundation.

Marie officially retired from the public service in 1995 but continues her Canberra Times column and her work as a consultant to advance the status of women, their reproductive health and Aboriginal social development in remote areas. Currently, she is involved in creating a Women's Archives Project to record the level, contribution to and achievements of women in Australian history and life.