• Pat O'Shane and daughters, Marilyn and Lydia. (Lydia Miller)Source: Lydia Miller
Pat O'Shane has instilled in her girls the same fighting spirit and determination that she inherited from her mother Gladys.
6 May 2016 - 8:42 PM  UPDATED 6 May 2016 - 8:47 PM

Pat O’Shane is a remarkable woman.

A prominent former magistrate and Yalangi woman from the Kunjandi clan, she has achieved many firsts.

Pat was the first Aboriginal teacher in Queensland, Australia's first Aboriginal barrister, the first woman and Aboriginal person to head a Government department in Australia, and the country’s first Aboriginal magistrate.

She was a working mum during the early 1960s – a time when the very phrase was almost unheard of.

Her passion for social justice emanated from her mother, Gladys.

“My mum was very active in Aboriginal affairs and campaigning for equality and justice,” Pat says.

Her daughters Lydia and Marilyn have carried on their maternal fight and spirit. 


Lydia is the Executive Director at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts at the Australia Council and has had a long career in the arts.

"Mum is great because she is strong, resilient, ethical and inspirational. I love listening to her stories of growing up, and the political vibrancy of those times, and how this shaped her and instilled a deep sense of social justice and compassion for the people," says Lydia.

"She has walked the talk and been instrumental in developing reforms and solutions. Her focus is formidable and I often think how this sensibility is also part of me, she is my muse! I want to make sure I tell her story so it's shared amongst many to reveal and understand the times we have lived through and how change is achieved."


Marilyn also works in the arts and is currently the Artistic Associate of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

She is equally as proud of her mum.

“Not just professionally but personally. The battles she has gone through has made her so much stronger.”

“As a daughter and having a strong female role model, she had a very low tolerance for nonsense from men and their attitudes towards women. It meant women had value and the things we did were valuable,” Marilyn says. 

“Growing up and thinking 'we're missing out on mum staying home' and the clichés that go along with a stay-at-home mum, but by the same token the experiences and the people we met because of her, created our own path to independence and it’s something I’m really appreciative of.”

Pat set the standards for her daughters and made sure they were shown the right way in life.

"I always encouraged them in everything they did. Now to see their achievements, and to become people who care about others and equality and justice, is really all it’s about.”

“We’re a little team the three of us,” Pat says. 

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