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Briggs, Louisa (1836 - 1925)

14 November 1836
Preservation Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania, Australia
Cummergunja, Victoria, Australia
Aboriginal spokesperson, Matron, Midwife and Nurse
Alternative Names
  • Strugnell, Louisa (maiden name)


Louisa Briggs, of Woiworung descent, was born on Preservation Island, Bass Strait. Around 1853 she and her husband, John, went to the Victorian goldfields. Then they worked as shepherds in the Beaufort district until 1871 when the family was admitted destitute to Coranderrk Aboriginal Station. There Briggs acted as nurse and midwife. In 1876 she was appointed matron and became the first Aboriginal woman to replace a European on salaried staff. She became the spokesperson for the residents and succeeded in securing the reappointment of the popular first manager. She fought the Aborigines Protection Board's plans to sell Coranderrk and remove residents to other reserves, and gave evidence to the 1876 inquiry but was eventually forced off the reserve and moved to Ebenezer Aboriginal Station. After yet another inquiry in 1881 she moved back to Coranderrk where she was reappointed matron. When her sons were forced off the reserve under the Victorian Aborigines Protection Act 1886, she moved first to Maloga Mission, and in 1889 to Cummeragunja reserve. Late in life she moved to Barmah and finally to Cummeragunja where she died in 1925.


Louisa Briggs was a strong-minded, hard-working woman, a regular church-goer, remembered for her humour, audacity and courage.

Sources used to compile this entry: Barwick, Laura, 'Briggs, Louisa (1836-1925)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,; Horton, David (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and culture, Aboriginal Studies Press for AIATSIS, Canberra, 1994, 2 v. (xxxiii, 1340 p.) pp; Radi, Heather (ed.), 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Women's Redress Press, Sydney, 1988, 258 pp. Also available at

Leonarda Kovacic

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