Gary Foley was born in Grafton (1950), northern NSW of Gumbainggir descent. Expelled from school aged 15, Foley came to Sydney as an apprentice draughtsperson. Since then he has been at the centre of major political activities including the Springbok tour demonstrations (1971), Tent Embassy in Canberra (1972), Commonwealth Games protest (1982), protests during the bicentennial celebrations (1988).
Foley was involved in the establishment of the first Aboriginal self-help and survival organisations including Redfern’s Aboriginal Legal Service, Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne, National Black Theatre. In 1974 he was part of an Aboriginal delegation that toured China and in 1978 he took films on black Australia to the Cannes Film festival.
Foley has been a director of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (1981), Aboriginal Arts Board (1983-86) and Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern (1988), senior lecturer at Swinburne College, consultant to the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody (1988), board member of the Aboriginal Legal Service, on the national executive of the National Coalition of Aboriginal Organisations. In 1994 Foley created the first Aboriginal owned and operated website when he created the Koori History website (external link), which remains one of the most comprehensive Aboriginal education resources available today online.
Late in life Foley completed his BA and then gained first class honours in history in 2002. Between 2001 and 2005 he was also the Senior Curator for Southeastern Australia at Museum Victoria. Between 2005 and 2008 he was a lecturer/tutor in the Education Faculty of University of Melbourne. In 2012 he completed at PhD in History at the University of Melbourne. He has worked at Victoria University since 2008.