Mossman, Queensland, Australia
- Aboriginal activist, Barrister, Café owner, Lawyer, Magistrate, Management consultant, Public servant, Teacher and University Chancellor
Patricia O'Shane was born in Northern Queensland in 1941. A noted activist for Indigenous rights, her achievements in the public sphere have been remarkable. She was the first Aboriginal Australian barrister (1976) and the first woman to be appointed to the New South Wales Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board (1979). When she was appointed permanent head of the New South Wales Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs in 1981, she became not only the first Aboriginal person but also the first woman to become a permanent head of ministry in Australia.
Patricia O'Shane was born in 1941 in the small township of Mossman, North Queensland. She attended State primary and high schools in Cairns, and was awarded a Teacher's Scholarship, which enabled her to study full-time at the Queensland Teachers' Training College, and part-time at the University of Queensland. After graduating from Teachers' College, she taught at primary and high schools respectively before and after her marriage. In 1973, having received an Aboriginal study grant from the Federal Government, she undertook a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of New South Wales, and completed the course at the end of 1975. In March 1976 she became Australia's first Aboriginal Barrister at a ceremony in the New South Wales Supreme Court. In 1979 she was appointed a Member of the New South Wales Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board - the first female member in the Board's 91-year history. She has worked with the New South Wales Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly on Aborigines, as Coordinator of the Aboriginal Task Force. In November 1981 Pat O'Shane was appointed permanent head of the New South Wales Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, becoming not only the first Aboriginal person but also the first woman to become permanent head of a ministry in Australia.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Australia's First Aboriginal Lawyer', Duran-Duran, June, 1976, p. 4; Barlow, Alex and Hill, Marji, Indigenous Heroes and Leaders, Heinemann Library, Port Melbourne, Vic, 2003; Beeson, Margaret J (compiled by), Some Aboriginal women pathfinders : their difficulties and their achievements, Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Australia, Adelaide, , 80 pp; Brown, Di (ed.), Dhirrabuu Mari = Outstanding Indigenous Australians, Coolabah Publishing, Toowoomba, Qld, 2000; Kerwin, Hollie and Rubenstein, Kim, 'Law', in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Judith Smart and Shurlee Swain (eds), Australian Women's Archives Project, 2014, http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/biogs/WLE0624b.htm; Lawson, Kirsten, Rebel Magistrate with a passion for justice, Panorama, June 30, 2001; Mitchell, Susan, Tall Poppies: Nine Successful Australian Women Talk to Susan Mitchell, Penguin, Ringwood, 1984; Mitchell, Susan, The matriarchs: twelve Australian women talk about their lives to Susan Mitchell., Penguin Books, Ringwood, Vic., 1987; Mitchell, Susan, Splitting the World Open: Taller Poppies and Me, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, 2001; O'Shane, Pat, 'A Healthy Sense of Identity', in Dawson, M and Radi, H. (eds), Against the Odds: Fifteen professional Women Reflect on Their Lives and Careers, Hale and Iremonger, Marrickville, 1984, pp. -37.; O'Shane, Patricia, 'Aborigines and the criminal justice system', in Cunneen, Chris (ed.), Aboriginal perspectives on criminal justice, Institue of Criminology, Sydney University Law School, Sydney, 1992, pp. 3-6; Richards, Michaela, 'Aboriginal women', in The Australian people, Angus & Robertson, North Ryde, N.S.W., 1988, pp. 255-259; Rintoul, Stuart., The wailing : a national Black oral history, William Heinemann, Port Melbourne, 1993, 422 pp; Roberta Sykes ; photography by Sandy Edwards, Murawina : Australian women of high achievement, Doubleday, Sydney, 1993, 185 pp; Smart, Judith and Swain, Shurlee (eds), 'O'Shane, Pat', The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Australian Women's Archives Project, 2 May 2014, http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/biogs/WLE0771b.htm.
Prepared by Leonarda Kovacic and Nikki Henningham
Created: 21 September 2004, Last modified: 9 November 2016