Sue has achieved many 'firsts' during her career: first Aboriginal person to head a government department in Western Australia as Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning; first Aboriginal magistrate in WA; and first full-time children's court magistrate (from 1988 to 2008). She has also been involved in a variety of high profile matters, including as Chairperson of the ‘Gordon Inquiry’ (2002); Chairperson of the ‘Northern Territory Emergency Response’ (2007-2008); and as one of five commissioners appointed to the first board of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).
As a result of government policies in Western Australia pertaining to Aboriginal people in the 1930s and 1940s, Sue was taken from her mother in 1947 aged 4 years from Mt. James Station via Meekatharra, placed in Sister Kate’s Children’s Home (like Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer), and educated and sent out to work aged 16 years. Her family only found her over 30 years later.
After spending three years in the army from 1961-64 as a member of the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps, Sue embarked on a long and distinguished career, appointed by state and federal governments on both sides of politics to various senior positions.
In 2002, Sue was appointed to head an inquiry into family violence and child abuse in Western Australian Aboriginal communities, known as the ‘Gordon Inquiry’. She was later Chair of the new National Indigenous Council for four years, an advisory body to the Federal Government, and also chaired the Northern Territory Emergency Response Taskforce, before retiring from the bench in September 2008. The following year she was appointed to the Indigenous Implementation Board of Western Australia.
Sue has a Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Western Australia (UWA), an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from UWA, Order of Australia – Australia Medal, Centenary Medal, Defence Service Medal, and was named Senior Woman Lawyer of the Year 2014 by the Women’s Lawyers of WA Inc.
In retirement, Sue has remained active in a variety of organisations. As well as the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation, Sue is also on the board of Outback Stores, The Police and Community Youth Centres Federation of WA (PCYC), Aboriginal Hostels Limited, and of course her Aged Persons Project at Sister Kate’s where she grew up.
Sue is a widow, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.