cartoonist, was born in Bathurst NSW and trained at Brisbane Technical College Art School. Then she went to University of New South Wales and began cartooning in Tharunka (c.1963). Through this work she met Ann Summers of the National Times , who later recommended her when a relief cartoonist was needed. She said (quoted Allsopp): 'I didn’t start off doing political cartoons. I was more or less just filling holes. When the copy fell short they would just come up and ask me to fill the hole.’ At the time she was the only woman cartoonist working in the newspapers. She contributed cartoons to many publications in the 1970s, particularly the National Times (c.1977 to mid-1980s), eg. The Eighties (couple cowering in empty room with '80’ and lightning threatening at the window), published 20 January 1980 [original presumed to be in the Mitchell Library though it may possibly be held in the National Library of Australia]. With David Bromley , Patrick Cook , Bill Farr , Randy Glusac and Ward O’Neill , Coopes illustrated Alexander Buzo’s Tautology: I don’t want to sound incredulous but I can’t believe it (Penguin, Victoria, 1981), and she had lots of very strong cartoons in Phillip Adams, Arrest that Cartoonist! (Ringwood, Penguin, 1986), published in aid of Amnesty.

Coopes moved to Fairfax newspapers in Sydney in 1986, mainly drawing for the Sun-Herald , but also contributing to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review (early 1990s). She has long been the regular political cartoonist on the weekly Sun-Herald , to which she also contributes small gag cartoons. Voltaire? (colour) and It’s a free country – both on Pauline Hanson – and Dignity in Work , published in the Sun-Herald in 1997, July 1996 and 1997, were exhibited in the National Museum of Australia’s 1997 Old Parliament House exhibition, Bringing the House Down: 12 Months of Australian Political Humour (Canberra, 1997), cats 43, 45, 74, and has been in its annual exhibitions ever since. In the 4th (1999) show she had Referendumb referendee depicting the mature male Tweedledumb and Tweedledee offering us 'the queen you don’t elect’ or 'the president you don’t elect’ ( Sun-Herald 1999), Mates ('The Tolerant Society’ – a couple at a cocktail party with the man saying “Some of my best friends are racists …” – Sun-Herald March 1999) and Quince paste ( Sun-Herald 1999) – Richard Carleton’s reply to an interviewer asking him about East Timor, “Blood on your hands Mr. Carleton?”

Coopes was the first woman to win a Walkley Award, for Best Illustration, in 1985 for a National Times cartoon of former High Court judge Lionel Murphy, 'His Honour, The Prisoner’ (Ron Tanberg, however, won the Cartoon Walkley). She won another Walkley for Best Illustration in 1989 for a Sun-Herald cartoon of former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock. She and John Spooner were short-listed for the 1996 Cartoon Walkley, won by Bill Leak . In 1998 she was one of the four finalists and runner-up to winner Rod Clement for her Sun-Herald cartoon on Pauline Hanson, “Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of a single mum”. In 1999 she won her third Walkley – a Best Cartoon one – for Mates ('The Tolerant Society’ – a couple at a cocktail party with the man saying “Some of my best friends are racists …” – Sun-Herald March 1999), though I preferred Quince paste ( Sun-Herald 1999). In the same year Fiona Lawrence won the Illustration Walkley, the first time two women had won both visual categories. Lindsay Foyle thinks Coopes may be the first woman in Australia to have been employed specifically [my italics: JK] as a political cartoonist – but what about May Gibbs in WA at the turn of the century? She was one of the 9 women cartoonists included in the Bunker Gallery’s Laugh Lines in 2002-3.

Other people’s books illustrated by Coopes include John Clarke’s The Complete Dagg c.1989 and The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse (Allen & Unwin, 1994) and Jill Hellyer’s Tomb It May Concern , a book of comic epitaphs expanded from examples and competition entries published in Phillip Adams’s Weekend Australian column (ABC Books, Sydney, 1993) – simple, understated line drawings full of puns. A member of the Australian Black and White Artists’ Club, she lives at Glebe.

Kerr, Joan
Date written:
Last updated: