Pat O’Shane, a Kuku Yalanji woman from Mossman, is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the Far North Queensland lower house seat of Leichhardt in the federal election. She announced her candidacy on December 17.
O’Shane’s career has included being the first female Aboriginal teacher in Queensland, working for eight years at Cairns High. She was the first Aboriginal woman to head a government department and was a university chancellor.
She is perhaps best known as Australia’s first Aboriginal barrister and magistrate, before retiring from the bench in 2013 to work on a pro bono basis.
O’Shane has been voted one of Australia’s living treasures by the National Trust. She received a lifetime achievement Deadly Award in 2013. On December 1, she received a similar National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) award for her longstanding advocacy for her community.
O’Shane has criticised the Northern Territory intervention and the incarceration of young people. As a delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention, she said the Constitution “was underwritten with the values of power, privilege, elitism, oppression and dispossession, [and] blatantly exclusionary”.
When she was leaving the bench she said in an interview that “law is not the same as justice and justice is certainly not the same as law”.
O’Shane returned to Cairns in 2019. She explained: “I’ve a long-term connection to the Far North. My family are here, and my entire First Nations family have lived here for many generations. We’re the Traditional Owners of the Daintree rainforest, the world’s oldest lowland tropical forest.”
O’Shane’s family also has close links to the “red North” – the region’s history of a strong socialist movement and communist party.
O’Shane said she is running because “there has been a dismal failure of the Morrison government to acquit their responsibilities to all Australians. I can’t sit by and let this inaction go on.
“As a vocal advocate for climate action, social justice and youth justice, I will hold the government accountable to secure a better future for all of Leichhardt — not just the big end of town.
“Warren Entsch has been the Liberal National Party member for Leichhardt for 22 years. In all that time he has become very stable — or at least he says so on his billboards. But, stable does not mean able.
“We need representatives in our parliament who will work to ensure our most pressing collective concerns are addressed; that climate change, public health, and public education are not sidelined, and integrity and morality in parliamentary conduct and decision making is brought back.”
The Far North Queensland branch of the Socialist Alliance launched its federal election campaign in October with Renee Lees, community lawyer, activist and mum, running for the Queensland Senate.
O’Shane’s candidacy in Leichhardt — which stretches from the Torres Strait, south through Cape York Peninsula, Cooktown, the Daintree, Mossman, Port Douglas, and Kuranda, to most of Cairns — is an opportunity to ensure progressive views from regional Australia are known and heard at a national level.
[Get in touch with Socialist Alliance Far North Queensland here.]