Warning: Indigenous Australians are advised that this website includes images or names of people now deceased.

Cairns Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League

The League's first test case concerned the sacking of a taxi driver on racial grounds. With the support of the local Trades and Labour Council, the company was black banned and the driver reinstated as a result.

Gladys O'Shane and Joe McGinness were, respectively, the inaugural president and secretary of the League. At this time Cairns was a unionised port town with more than a thousand men working on the wharves, including Aborigines and Islanders. The Cairns Trades and Labour Council, the Union of Australian Women and the Waterside Workers' Federation, of which McGinness was a member, provided both moral and financial support to the League.

The League was formed in 1960 and soon after affiliated with the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement (FCAA). With the election of Joe McGinness as president of FCAA in 1961, it played an active role in the federal movement. It frequently initiated new campaigns such as the campaign against the Queensland Aboriginal acts and the tuberculosis allowance campaign.

Unlike most of the other multi-racial activist organisations operating at this time, the membership was predominantly Aboriginal and Islander members. The Cairns League played a significant part in exposing police violence in Mareeba and Mossman and in campaigns against the Queensland Aboriginal acts.

Further resources

Gladys O'Shane
Joe McGinness
< Previous Next >