Continuing in the footsteps of North Queensland’s rich red history

May 11, 2022
Renee Lees (right) at a pre-poll booth in Cairns. Photo: Pat O'Shane 4 Leichhardt/Facebook

North Queensland has a rich socialist history, with women, migrants and First Nations people playing a big role.

Socialist and communist-affiliated voluntary committees were deeply involved in their communities throughout North Queensland, running big relief programs, communal kitchens and accommodation for poor families through the Depression and World War II.

They played a big role in defeating Weil’s disease or leptospirosis among cane workers. They fundraised through popular town dances, picnics and cake stalls.

In Townsville alone, the legacy of this resident action includes the public pool, the first free library, a children’s hospital, bus shelters, public ice works and a fruit market.

The popular Fred Paterson, a pro-bono barrister for the poor, was Australia’s only communist elected to federal parliament, holding the seat of Bowen for two terms from 1944–50.

From as early as the 1920s, the Communist Party of Australia was involved in campaigns for First Nations rights, including land rights, civil rights, an end to the Protection Act and the removal of children, supporting the 1936 Torres Strait strike in the pearling industry, through to the 1960s when leading Aboriginal activists Joe McGuiness and Gladys O’Shane — Kuku Yalanji woman Pat O’Shane’s mother — were prominent members.

Socialist Alliance continues this good tradition of solidarity in North Queensland. We invite you to join us.

[Find out more about Socialist Alliance here. The Red North by Diane Menghetti is available at Resistance Books.]

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