The ‘Grande Dame of Australian Folk music’: Judy Small returns to perform in Coffs Harbour

Folk singer Judy Small. Photo supplied.


BORN and raised in Coffs Harbour, Judy Small has enjoyed success and recognition in two diverse fields, as both a folk music singer-songwriter and a lawyer.

After graduating from Coffs Harbour High School, Judy moved to Sydney to study and also started her career as a singer and songwriter in the late 1970s.

Judy’s connection to Coffs Harbour includes the fact that her father Fred was an Editor of the Coffs Harbour Advocate in the 1950’s.

She pursued her musical career full time until becoming a family lawyer in 1998, although she continued with her songwriting and part time performances while practicing law.

Judy went on to be appointed as a Judge with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in 2013, and her singing career was put on hold.

Some of her many achievements include being awarded the ‘MO Award’ for folk singer of the year in 1990 and becoming a Member of the Order of Australia for her work as a songwriter and recording artist in 2013.

After retiring from the Bench in April 2020, Judy decided in 2021 to return to the stage and sing for audiences once again, commencing a tour from Cairns to Victoria (restrictions allowing) from August to September this year.

Known for her feminist and political songs which usually follow a traditional theme, Judy has produced twelve albums and hundreds of songs, and says of her work, “If an audience comes away thinking about issues it is a worthwhile performance.”

Well known local music teacher Margaret England has kept in touch with Judy through the years and told News Of The Area, “My connection with her is that I was a young teacher seconded to CHHS expressly to conduct a massed choir of primary school students for the opening of the much lamented Civic Centre.

“Judy was a part of this choir and I encountered her at high school a year or two later since when we have never lost touch.

“It’s a nice piece of symmetry that as the Coffs Harbour City Council casts around for a venue to house a proper entertainment centre I’m arranging a gig for the now famous little chorister.”

Restrictions permitting Judy Small will sing at Coffs harbour Guide Hall 209A Harbour Drive Coffs Harbour from 3pm.

Tickets are available from


By David TUNE

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